Pacifier Use May Stunt Emotional Development in Boys

pacifier use detrimental A new study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that heavy use of pacifiers by boys may stunt their emotional development throughout life.


Experiments performed by researchers at the University showed that six- and seven-year-old boys who spent large amounts of time with pacifiers in their mouths as young children were less able to mimic emotions presented to them on video.


The issue does not seem to end in childhood either, college-age men whose parents reported that they used pacifiers as children scored lower on tests of empathy than their peers.


Pacifiers may stunt the emotional development of baby boys by robbing them of the opportunity to try on facial expressions during infancy. With a pacifier in their mouth, a baby is less able to mirror those expressions and the emotions they represent.


The study did not find that girls have the same emotional setbacks as boys from heavy pacifier use.


Girls develop earlier in many ways, according to [Paula Niedenthal a UW-Madison psychology professor and lead author of the study], and it is possible that they make sufficient progress in emotional development before or despite pacifier use. It may be that boys are simply more vulnerable than girls, and disrupting their use of facial mimicry is just more detrimental for them.


Read the full story: Pacifiers may have emotional consequences for boys


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Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one’s best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.


3 thoughts on “Pacifier Use May Stunt Emotional Development in Boys”

  1. wonder if its emotional connection to mum – heavy pacifier use would indicate less time on the breast bonding? how do they know its facial mimicking that is needed to develop empathy?

  2. Just wanted to quickly mention (relative to the photo illustration) that pacifier use at sleep time / nighttime did not have the “stunting” effect that daytime use did — again, presumably at times when there is the opportunity to engage in face-to-face attunment and mirroring.

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