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The Role Gender Plays in Childhood Thumb Sucking

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More than half of the world’s children suck their fingers and thumbs during their early childhood years—it’s one of our most human instincts. This inherent natural reflex is commonplace because of the soothing comfort and reassurance it provides. However, as a child ages, this coping method can lead to increased dependence.

Concerned parents may wonder whether the sex of a child determines if they are more prone to frequenting or prolonging the behavior. Let’s examine the role gender plays in childhood thumb sucking.

The Prevalence of Childhood Oral Sucking Behaviors

Digit sucking is a behavior most prevalent in children during their infancy; it serves as a form of relaxation and emotional regulation and provides a sense of security. As the medical staff at Mayo Clinic notes, most children stop this practice on their own between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. During this time, a child tends to lose their innate urge for non-nutritive sucking.

Yet, this is not always the case. Some children do not break the habit before reaching school age, which is a critical time of childhood development. The frequent occurrence may transform into a more harmful problem. Besides resulting in poor oral health, prolonged thumb sucking can lead to various social consequences. The role of gender comes directly into play with the mention of this social aspect.

The Characteristic Role of Gender: Social Influences

Does the sex of a child at birth affect the possibility of a prolonged sucking habit? Ultimately, there is no definitive answer. The role gender plays in childhood thumb sucking can be minimal or substantial due to oscillating public social influences. According to past pediatric research, boys and girls have an equal tendency to suck their thumbs at birth, but girls are more likely to continue the habit after the age of 2.

While recent studies have not dived deeply into the distinction, researchers recognize that the reasoning for the difference often lies in social influences. Certain perceptions from family, friends, or peers may deem thumb-sucking boys as “babyish” and dissuade the behavior early on. On the other hand, thumb sucking is more likely to be seen as cute or socially acceptable for girls, leading to a higher percentage of regular thumb suckers. Regardless of these interpretations and the gender of a child, breaking the oral habit at the right time is key for optimal physical, mental, and social health.

Methods To Properly Handle a Sucking Habit

Despite external influences, intervention for childhood sucking tendencies isn’t necessary until the crucial age when a child’s permanent teeth begin to come in. At this time, knowing how to break a finger- or thumb-sucking habit is essential to protect a child’s comprehensive well-being.

A variety of approaches are available to address sucking habits, including gentle reminders, reward systems, and positive reinforcement. Another innovative option is the effective technique of a physical guard device. Learn more about TGuard’s easy-to-use AeroFinger or AeroThumb on our website.


The sex difference in thumb-sucking” from The Journal of Pediatrics

Thumb sucking: Help your child break the habit” from Mayo Clinic