ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta)– A team of psychologists has discovered that baby boys who use pacifiers will grow up to be less emotionally mature than baby boys who do not suckle on them in infancy.
The study, conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, additionally learned that pacifiers do not have the same detrimental effects on girls.
The Daily Mail found that the team linked the ability to empathize with the ability to mimic facial reactions in early years – with a pacifier in the mouth, imitation becomes more difficult, which can reportedly stunt emotional growth in boys.
“By reflecting what another person is doing, you create some part of the feeling yourself,” lead author Professor Paula Niedenthal was quoted as saying in explanation.
She added, “We can talk to infants, but at least initially they aren’t going to understand what the words mean … so the way we communicate with infants at first is by using the tone of our voice and our facial expressions.”
During one portion of their study, the team reportedly learned that boys around the ages of 6 and 7 who used pacifiers in their baby days were not as likely to mimic facial expressions they saw in videos.
Researchers additionally asked college students to participate in an emotional intelligence test that gauged their decision-making skills when asked to factor in the moods of others around them, the website learned.
Those who had used a pacifier during childhood received lower scores.
“What’s impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data,” Niedenthal said of their findings. “There’s no effect of pacifier use on these outcomes for girls, and there’s a detriment for boys with length of pacifier use even outside of any anxiety or attachment issues that may affect emotional development.”
The Daily Mail said that Niedenthal attributed the gender difference to the fact that girls mature and develop earlier.
“It could be that parents are inadvertently compensating for girls using the pacifier, because they want their girls to be emotionally sophisticated. Because that’s a girly thing,” she reportedly added.
Niedenthal further explained, “Since girls are not expected to be unemotional, they’re stimulated in other ways. But because boys are desired to be unemotional, when you plug them up with a pacifier, you don’t do anything to compensate and help them learn about emotions.