Could this Widespread Parenting Practice Reduce Future Emotional Competence?
Certain parenting practices often come under fire by health professionals, health organisations or the media, dummies (also known as pacifiers or comforters) are no stranger to this criticism.
Used in some form almost universally by parents around the world, dummies are generally considered fairly safe and something that is quickly grown out of.
But new research considered a more complex issue concerning the use of dummies:
psychology and neuroscience suggests that facial mimicry plays a causal role in understanding facial expression of emotion
Accurate understanding of facial emotion, in turn, grounds emotional development.
The researchers therefore aimed to examine the effect dummies would have:
Are pacifiers, which disrupt facial mimicry in the user, associated with compromised emotional development?
The research team whose work was published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology found that the effect of dummy use on future emotional development was gender-specific:
The results of these three studies reveal a negative association between pacifier use and emotional competences in boys.
The study highlighted the need for more research to confirm these findings it did conclude that:
the present data suggest that pacifiers may inhibit some aspects of emotional development that rely on facial mimicry and its role in processing incoming emotional information
While an interesting finding it is yet to be seen if research into dummy use could become so compelling that parents take the decision to stop or minimise the use of dummies.