Object attachment, thumbsucking, and the passage to sleep

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1989 Mar;28(2):287-92. doi: 10.1097/00004583-198903000-00024.


Cross-cultural studies suggest that children who sleep in the same room as their parents and who are breast-fed are less likely to use an attachment object. The present study examined childrearing practices that emphasize physical proximity of parent and child and use of an attachment object and thumbsucking at bedtime with 126 healthy U.S. infants. Four child-rearing practices were focused on: presence or absence of a caregiver when the child actually fell asleep; mode of feeding; location of the child's bed or sleeping place; whether or not the child slept with the parents during the night. Children who had an adult present as they fell asleep were less likely to use an attachment object or suck their thumbs. In contrast to cross-cultural research, the results of the present study suggest that where a child sleeps during the night or how the child is fed is not as important an influence on the bedtime use of an attachment object or thumbsucking as whether an adult is present as the child actually falls asleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Child Rearing*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fingersucking / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Sleep*