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The Teddy Bear in Psychology. A prospective study with focus on children´s use of transitional objects.

By Margareta Viberg


The central issue of the dissertation is the place and meaning of the concepts transitional object (TO) and transitional phenomenon (TP) as defined by Winnicott, in a normal psychological context. A group of children were followed from age 8 months to 6 years. A prevalence study was carried out by interviewing parents in connection with the child's (n=147) routine check-ups at the Child Health Centre. The questions regarded the child's use of a TO, pacifier or thumb-sucking and breastfeeding. Fiftyfour % of the children used a TO. The use of a TO was related to use of pacifier/thumbsucking and to a breastfeeding period =8 months was a positive factor for development in both boys and girls. Thumbsucking correlated negatively with development and use of pacifier at 12 and TO at 18 months correlated positively with developmental level. When the children (n=73) were five and a half years old, the parents answered a questionnaire about their children's use of a TO and rated their development and behaviour on a number of scales. Children who were breastfed for a long period were rated as more difficult to wean, slept more uneasily and were more dependent on their parents. Pacifier-users were rated as more irritable and difficult to leave in the care of others; thumbsuckers were rated as crying less, sleeping quietly and easy to leave in the care of others; users of a TO were rated as being early in their speech development. It appeared advantageous to the child's development if parents were willing to be "disturbed" by their children. When the children were 6 years old they (n=21) and their parents were interviewed as to their views on TOs. The children considered that a TO was very important for the child who used one. They regarded TOs as natural and something which a child could well need e.g. when going to sleep. For parents, TOs had a normative content. The "regression" described in connection with a child's use of a TO/pacifier/thumb was seen as "provoking" by several parents. Children did not "evaluate" their parents way of handling such situations. Parents were preoccupied with the idea of whether it was a sign of security or insecurity if their children used a TO. Breastfeeding would seem to preserve a child's "illusion" of fusion with the mother. Maybe the necessary disillusionment is precipitated too early when the breastfeeding period is restricted. TOs have no self-evident place in the life of an infant, but TP and transitional relating are necessary conditions for TOs which are used by approximately 50% of Swedish children

Topics: Psychology, Psychiatry, clinical psychology, psychosomatics, Psykiatri, psykosomatik, Utvecklingspsykologi, Development psychology, parent interview, child interview, development, follow up, pacifier use, thumbsucking, breast feeding, transitional object, transitional phenomenon, klinisk psykologi
Publisher: Department of Psychology, Lund University
Year: 2003
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