Suck it: Pacifiers may hurt boys


The emotional development of a baby boy may be hindered by the use of a pacifier since the pacifier prevents the baby from experimenting with appropriate facial expressions. Three separate investigations out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a connection between use of pacifiers and the impairment of a boy’s ability to express emotion.

Facial expressions convey emotional meaning

“By reflecting what another person is doing, you create some part of the feeling yourself. That’s one of the ways we understand what someone is feeling,” explained Paula Niedenthal, lead author of the study. Facial expressions are visual clues to emotional state.

Babies are imitators

“We can talk to infants, but at least initially they aren’t going to understand what the words mean. So the way we communicate with infants at first is by using the tone of our voice and our facial expressions,” Niedenthal continued. When a baby has a pacifier, he is hindered from imitation.

Three studies showed boys are hindered by pacifier

Researchers looked at boys aged 6 and 7 who used pacifiers regularly as babies. They were not as likely to copy emotional expression they saw in a video. They also discovered men of college age who reported using pacifiers scored lower on tests regarding perspective-taking, an indicator of empathy. In a third study they administered a common emotional intelligence test to a group of students and found that lower scores were linked to the men who reported pacifier use.

“What’s impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data. There’s no effect of pacifier use on these outcomes for girls, and there’s a detriment for boys with length of pacifier use even outside of any anxiety or attachment issues that may affect emotional development,” concluded Niedenthal.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, University of Wisconsin-Madison


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