Topical Guide 130
Security Blanket, Comfort Object, “Lovey”
“I think you were just nervous today, but it would be a good idea for you to practice the times tables until you can rattle them off like that.” She snapped her fingers. “Don’t you think so?”
I clutched my camera tightly. …
Clarissa walked through the doorway. When I saw her, I blushed. When she saw me, she blushed and bent her head so that she was looking down at the white fur muff in which she held her hands.
Little Follies, “The Girl with the White Fur Muff”
Q [from Baltimore Sun reader]: My daughter has a cloth diaper that she sleeps with and carries around the house. When I attempt to limit it to the crib, she screams until I take it out.
A [from Dr. T. Berry Brazelton]: It’s symbolic of you, the mother, and it's very important. I think it’s neat for a child to have a lovey [Brazelton’s name for a blanket, stuffed animal, or any other object that a child clings to for security and comfort —MD] like that, because it is reminiscent of a care-giver. I’m always delighted to see that. For instance, in the hospital or in a stress period, when a child has a lovey, they can manage stress, they can manage separation in a very different way than if they haven’t any kind of lovey. So I’m not sure why it bothers this mother so much. She feels like it’s a sign of failure on her part, but I feel quite the opposite.
Q [from Baltimore Sun reader]: What's the appropriate age for a child to give up a lovey?
A [from Dr. T. Berry Brazelton]: Greek men never give them up, they carry worry beads in their pockets all their lives. Most of us have something we fall back on; my wife fingers this Mayan bead she wears all day long. I don’t know, I don't have a limit. I think what a parent’s job should be is to help children graduate from one inappropriate lovey to an appropriate one, so they don’t have to feel embarrassed about it.
Objective: Mobile phones are increasingly becoming a part of the social environment, and when an individual feels excluded during a socially stressful situation, they often retreat to the comfort of their phone to ameliorate the negativity. This study tests whether smartphone presence does, in fact, alter psychological and physiological responses to social stress.
Methods: Participants (N=148, 84% female, mean age=20.4) were subjected to a peer, social-exclusion stressor. Prior to exclusion, participants were randomized to one of three conditions: (1) phone present with use encouraged, (2) phone present with use restricted, or (3) no phone access. Saliva samples and self-report data were collected throughout the study to assess salivary alpha amylase (sAA), cortisol, and feelings of exclusion. Results: Participants in both phone-present conditions reported lower feelings of exclusion compared to individuals who had no access to their phone, F(2,143)=5.49, p=.005. Multilevel modeling of sAA responses revealed that the individuals in the restricted phone condition had a significantly different quadratic trajectory following the stressor compared to the phone use, ϒ=-0.12,, z=-2.15 p=.032, and no phone conditions, ϒ=-.14, z=-2.64, p=.008. Specifically, those in the restricted phone condition showed a decrease in sAA following exclusion, those in the no phone condition showed a gradual increase, and phone users exhibited little change. Cortisol responses to the stressor did not vary by condition.
Conclusions: Taken together, these results suggest that the mere presence of a phone (and not necessarily phone use) can buffer against the negative experience and effects of social exclusion.
John F. Hunter (MA), Emily D. Hooker (PhD), Nicolas Rohleder (PhD) & Sarah D. Pressman (PhD), “The use of smartphones as a digital security blanket: The influence of phone use and availability on psychological and physiological responses to social exclusion,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 80(4):345-352, May 2018
[more to come on Friday, November 12, 2021]
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