Your Son Has The Emotional Depth Of A Teaspoon Because You Gave Him A Pacifier

pacifierThose mothers and fathers who frequently rely on the blessed binkie to keep the baby crying to a minimum may want to consider a new strategy. That is, unless you’re comfortable with having an emotionally stunted boy, in which case, by all means, suck away!

The Los Angeles Times reports that a triple study of “heavy pacifier use” in males is linked to an inability to properly interpret and understand emotion. The researchers, who worked with University of Wisconsin scientists, initially determined that 6- and 7-year-old boys who loved the binkie were less likely to copy facial expression from a video. This exercise is reportedly “a test of kids’ interpersonal empathy.” Next, researchers moved on to college kids:

The next two studies used the age-old psychology research study group: college students. The researchers asked the students (who likely asked their parents) how often they used pacifiers when they were little. They then gave the students a test of what’s called “perspective taking,” which is the ability to assume someone else’s point of view and is often stunted in people with autism. Finally, they also gave college students a test of emotional intelligence, which required them to make decisions that relied on understanding the feelings of others.

In both cases, heavy pacifier use was associated with poor scores.

The consistent results between all three studies have researchers feeling pretty confident in their findings. Although the prevalence among boys, and not girls, does have them floating several theories, they asterisk it all with a simple, “more research is needed.” The frontrunners so far are that parents engage “more emotionally” with their daughters than their sons to begin with, or that girls are “inherently” more adept to cope with emotions. Either way, a pacifier does present some concerning challenges for baby’s development:

Infancy is considered a “critical period” for many human skills and capacities, including emotional and interpersonal development. That means that if we don’t have the right exposure or the right experiences when we’re little, we may never have them at all. And if infants have pacifiers in their mouths all the time, they are unable to mimic faces and have social interactions that rely on facial expressions — both believed to be essential building blocks of social and emotional development…And it is possible that the correlation the researchers discovered goes even deeper — which would be true if children genetically predisposed to autism or autistic traits exhibited behaviors, like crying, more likely to lead to a parent giving them a pacifier in the first place.

Time to start chucking all those pacifiers in a box and packing them up for the next 5-year cycle of parenting taboos. You know, just until another round of studies vilifies mobiles or something.

(photo: Ilya Andriyanov/ Shutterstock)

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  • lyzl

    Those stupid mobiles!!!!

  • Monique Boulanger

    I call bullshit. My son used pacis and guess what, he’s the most empathetic, sweet natured little boy you could ever meet. He has huge feels, and can read other people like a book. So yeah, with this YMMV.

  • Andrea

    “Those mothers and fathers who frequently rely on the blessed binkie to keep the baby crying to a minimum may want to consider a new strategy. That is, unless you’re comfortable with having an emotionally stunted boy, in which case, by all means, suck away!”

    I love how Koa doesn’t even have children yet, but she’s the most judgmental writer on this site.

    • Claire Zulkey

      I’m detecting sarcasm, but maybe I’m wrong.

    • Koa Beck

      Definitely sarcasm. How have you been, Claire?

  • bumbler

    Meh, I have 11 adopted kids (six girls, five boys), 5 of whom used pacifiers (two girls, three boys). I’ll go ahead and grant myself “small case study” status, and given that, my conclusion is there’s no perceivable difference between the the haves and the have nots. A million little things shape your kid’s personality, likely including pacifiers to SOME degree. In the scheme of things, I’d be willing to write it of as ‘generally negligible’ though. Do what you feel is right with your kids.

  • Jessie

    Yeah.. I’m gonna call BS on this one. Emotional range and all that stuff is learned by watching others and being guided by your parents, not by whether or not you used a pacifier or some such nonsense as a baby. I know several men who used pacifiers as kids who are the sweetest and most empathetic men I know, and others who DIDN’T use them who are very emotionally stunted.

    Seriously, is this what our scientists are wasting their time on? THIS is where my tax money is going? To fund nonsense “studies” like this? Geebus. No wonder we don’t have flying cars or solar energy in every home yet.

  • Cannabitchin’

    Did the boys and men in the study also display nipple confusion and buck teeth? Just wondering.

  • 1st-Time Mommy

    Is this possibly a case of correlation vs. causation? Couldn’t the kids whose parents were more likely to try and shut them up with a paci have also had parents with whom they were less emotionally engaged? I would think the parents not being there emotionally would be a bigger cause of disconnect, and that the frequent pacifier use is just another symptom.

  • Jessica

    Um, I might be sleep deprived from currently having a 4-month old, but is the last study really suggesting that pacifiers might tip a child with genetic tendencies over the scale?? How is this different from generalized blame that emotionally distant mothers are the primary cause of autism-spectrum disorders?

    As far as “stunted” emotional development, I agree with the correlation vs. causation statement. It seems like if parents are overly eager with older children to use a pacifier to “quiet the child” rather than help the child work through emotions, that is what would be problematic – a more upstream problem, if you will. I think that the studies/article should address the definition of “heavy pacifier use” – are we talking when the kids are newborns and just need to suck and the mom is tired of constantly having a child nursing for comfort? Or, are they using a pacifier until age 5, which is an age that parents should be enabling the child to work through emotions? I think that there’s a lot of missing information in either the article or the study.

  • Clare

    The researchers asked college students how often they used a binky…..presumably these students asked their parents and they based their evidence on a second-hand memory of something that happened 18 or so years ago.

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