New survey results reveal one in five adults still own their childhood teddies, while 9% of us choose to sleep with a soft toy at night
Cuddly toys and security blankets are just two of the most common comfort objects (also known as loveys) many of us have as children. Snuggling up with a stuffed animal or wrapping up with a security blanket can provide comfort when feeling overwhelmed or may help to soothe you when feeling anxious. These transitional objects initially help babies making the journey from being fully dependent to independent.
Around half of all children will develop an attachment in this way, using their chosen item as a small, portable reminder of the security, safety, and familiarity of home and family. This often enables them to feel more confident as they venture out into the big, wide world.
While most young children will grow out of their need to carry their favourite teddy with them before starting school, many will still use them for comfort at bedtime or at home. But do we all grow out of the need for our teddy bear at some point or is it OK to keep them?
According to a recent survey, more than one in five (21%) of UK adults still owns at least one of their childhood teddy bears. Previous studies have suggested that number could be as high as 40%.
Results showed that those aged 18-34 were most likely to still own a childhood toy, with women being the most likely to still sleep with their teddy bear. But, why is it that some of us still do this well into adulthood? Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant, Lee Chambers, explains more.
“As a society, we tend to picture children sleeping with soft toys, blankets and other comforting items, but rarely consider that as adults, many of us still use comfort objects as part of our sleeping rituals.
“These comfort objects can help us to soothe ourselves if we are feeling anxious. They are a familiar item that has often been on a journey with you and can make you feel less isolated. We are emotionally attached to these objects, and they can provide stability in challenging times. And, in a world that is increasingly fast-moving and a culture that is increasingly disposable, this unique object feels like slowing down, something special to you and something safe and reliable.”
Anxiety levels have risen dramatically over the past 12 years – most notably in those aged 18-24, with women within this age range reporting triple the amount of anxiety in 2018 compared to those asked in 2008. Anxiety can commonly lead to feelings of restlessness, worry, and trouble with sleeping. These feelings, Lee explains, may be combatted while using our comfort objects.
“Our attachment to comfort objects such as teddies and blankets often comes from the fact that they often, when we are younger, offer us the feeling of somebody being with us when we are in our bed. It becomes an object that can make us feel less anxious and isolated, therefore, creating a feeling of comfort.
“This security is powerful in times we feel under threat or when things are changing. They can also be physically comforting, soft and pliable, for being hugged and feel gentle on our skin,” Lee explains. But is there anything wrong with still taking comfort from our childhood toys?
“There might be a stigma attached to using comfort objects as an adult but, in many ways, it is completely normal. As we become more independent, we usually lose attachment to these items, but even as adults, we can use them to bolster our emotional and mental wellbeing, especially in times of transition or loneliness.
“It is often highlighted that using a comfort object is a healthier coping mechanism than alcohol or drugs when we need to soothe ourselves, but is a challenge when it comes between you and seeking comfort from others, if hiding it or it’s stopping you from sleeping without it.”
It might not be something we talk about, but keeping your cuddly toys and still seeking comfort from them as an adult may be more common than you think. As long as you can still sleep without it, it isn’t holding you back, or negatively impacting your relationship, experts tend to agree it’s OK to still keep your childhood comfort item.
To find out more about different methods of coping and how therapy could help support you in moving towards positive change, visit Counselling Directory.