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The Social Consequences of Prolonged Thumb Sucking

As a subconscious response to feelings of stress or boredom, early childhood thumb sucking is common. This form of non-nutritive sucking is a normal, instinctive reflex. However, if this habit persists beyond the appropriate age, the practice begins to carry negative growth and development implications.

Frequent thumb sucking leads to a range of health, behavioral, and social problems for young children. Here is a closer look at the possible social consequences of prolonged thumb sucking that parents should be aware of.

The Social Effects of Habitual Sucking

According to WebMD, prolonged sucking behavior becomes a more serious problem during social situations outside the home. The older their age, the more others may judge them. Many children will not think twice before putting their thumb in their mouth until someone mentions or points out the fact directly to them. As a result, children who suck their thumbs in public often endure ridicule, teasing, or bullying.

Children in preschool, kindergarten, or early elementary school years who continue to suck their thumbs may face this kind of pressure from their peers. These interactions can negatively result in increased social anxiety, lowered self-confidence, or social withdrawal.

Age Makes All the Difference

When considering the social consequences of prolonged thumb sucking, any of the above situations can become a possibility for your child. Remember that age can make a difference in determining if the habit is socially appropriate. The prime time for social difficulties to begin is after their fifth birthday, as children often point out or comment on actions seen as “different” around this age.

Ergo, speak with your child if you are concerned about the possible effects of this habit on their physical health and social development. Ending the habit always starts with a decision. They may break the pattern on their own, peer pressure may kick the habit, or you can try other approaches to extinguish the repetitive behavior.

Methods To Stop the Prolonged Habit

Most children desire to stop the habit around this time of their lives, yet may require extra help to be successful. Letting go of an addictive and familiar habit is not an easy feat. Parents are key players in determining the support, guidance, or treatment needed to meet their child’s unique needs. As Dr. Susan Heitler mentions in Psychology Today, blocking the habit from occurring with an appliance or device is one of the most effective strategies.

Parents can try a professional deterrent device to stop thumb sucking, such as the AeroThumb from TGuard. Painless, ergonomic, and nonrestrictive, this product offers 100 percent peace of mind to break the habit for good.


Breaking the Thumb-Sucking Habit” from WebMD

Lessons from Thumbsucking, the Earliest Addiction” from Psychology Today