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Linus Vindicated 'Blanket Habit' Doesn't Hurt, Study Finds

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Small children who carry a favorite blanket or toy wherever they go are considered cute, but once a child reaches school age, parents and teachers may worry that the child with a "security blanket" is emotionally dependent and immature.

A new study suggests, however, that these children are being unjustly maligned. They are indistinguishable from other children in terms of their "raisability, adaptability, and independence," according to the study.

Dr. Miriam Sherman and colleagues at the New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center collected information on 171 children between the ages of 9 and 13. Using questionnaires and interviews, they compared "users" and "nonusers" of what they termed "treasured objects."

Earlier research had suggested that children who adopt a "treasured object" may fare better than those who do not. But Dr. Sherman's team found that the blanket habit has no discernible effects in the long run--and in the short run, it simply comforts the child. "Late users,'' who clung tenaciously to their blankets, also displayed no adverse effects.

The study, reported in the September 1981 issue of Pediatrics, also revealed a surprising amount of "object use" among older children. Often the children merely keep the "treasured object" handy for moments of stress.

One example: A 10-year-old boy left his blanket home when he went to camp because he feared the other children would laugh at him. But when he got there, he found that all the other campers had brought their blankets. "The first letter home," write the researchers,"contained a plea that the blanket be mailed promptly."

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