Friday, September 21, 2012

Pacifiers may stunt emotional growth for boys: Study

A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that the over-use of pacifiers may impact the emotional development of infant boys. 
Overusing pacifiers on infant boys may have a negative impact on their emotional development, a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found.

While major organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have previously sounded the warning that pacifiers can increase the risk of dental abnormalities and ear infections, this is the first study to look at possible social and psychological consequences.

Professor of Psychology Paula Niedenthal, who led the study, said infants get a lot of information, as part of their emotional development, when they observe and mimic the facial expressions of adults.

This vital learning of expression and emotion may be impeded when the infant’s mouth is constrained with a pacifier, researchers found.

The effect is similar to that seen in studies of patients receiving injections of Botox to reduce wrinkles. Botox users experience a narrower range of emotions, and often have trouble identifying the emotions behind expressions on other faces.

This got the researchers behind the study thinking about critical periods of emotional development, like infancy, and could there be a similar effect if you always had something in your mouth preventing you from mimicking and resonating with facial expressions of adults around you.

According to Niedenthal, there is a real possibility that interfering with the way the face is used to process information may have negative consequences for emotional information processing, and this may turn out to be for boys only.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison study had three components, the first of which studied the faces of a group of six- and seven-year-olds while watching a video of “emotionally expressive adult faces.” Information on pacifier use was derived from the parents.

“We found the longer the pacifier use, the less facial mimicry in boys,” Niedenthal said.

A second study of about 160 college-age adults, men and women, used a questionnaire to measure them on a number of standard psychological personality-type scales, particularly “perspective-taking,” a key component of empathy. Again, the results show longer pacifier use in males.

A third study featured a questionnaire of about 480 college-age adults in what Niedenthal called an “emotional intelligence scale, which is in part the ability to read emotions in others and yourself.” According to the professor, the results of this backed up what was found in the other two studies.

Explaining why there was so such results for females, Niedenthal said girls have an advantage over boys when it comes to emotional development because society allows them to embrace them their emotions.
“We almost expect boys and in some cases desire that they not be as good or as sensitive about emotional cues,” she said.

Niedenthal said parents often feel “guilty” about using pacifiers to silence fussy children, which makes discussion of how to use them effectively sometimes difficult.

“I think the conversation is more complicated than the use or non-use of pacifiers. There can be use of pacifiers that may be helpful or may have no clear social or psychological consequences, for example, pacifier use at night,” Niedenthal said.

“I think parents have to think about whether the child needs a pacifier and, if they need a pacifier, what the consequences are for the child socially,” she added.

No comments:

Post a Comment