Numerous theories are given by different people to explain the thumb sucking habit. These theories try to explain the etiology and implications of the thumb sucking.

The various theories are

Psychoanalytical or psychosexual Theory

This theory is given by Sigmund Freud. According to this theory the habit of thumb sucking is there because of some underlying disturbance. Basically the habit of thumb sucking is to manage the stress. If without treating the cause we try to eliminate the habit it can be substituted by some other antisocial activity.

Oral Drive Theory

This theory is given by Sears and Wise in 1950. According to this theory the thumb sucking is because of prolongation of nursing. Prolongation of nursing strengthens the oral drive and to satisfy that child starts with thumb sucking.

Learning Theory

According to this theory habit of thumb sucking originates from the adaptive response. There is no psychological cause. This habit is acquired as the result of learning. The child relates the habit with some feeling e.g. when he is hungry he starts sucking his thumb or when he is bored he starts thumb sucking.

Benjamin’s Theory

Benjamin has suggested that thumb sucking arises from the rooting or placing reflex seen in all mammalian infants. Rooting reflex is the movement of the infant’s head and tongue towards an object touching his cheek. The object is usually the mother’s breast but may also be a finger or a pacifier. This rooting reflex disappears in normal infants around 7-8 months of age.

Johnson and Larson Theory

Johnson and Larson in 1993 also tried to explain the thumb sucking habit. They said that every child has the inherent sucking reflex. Environmental factors may contribute in making this a non nutritive habit like thumb sucking or digit sucking

Psychological aspects

Children deprived of parental love; care and affection are believed to resort to this due to a feeling of insecurity.

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  • Tamsyn

    Tamsyn 23 - March - 2013, at 06:09 AM

  • Actually, I think prolonged nursing would help eliminate thumb sucking. A child who has access to "the real deal" will have their sucking needs fulfilled, where a child who feels that longing will be left to themselves to find a way to feel that need. My oldest nursed until 27 months. My second self-weaned at 13. My third nursed until 28 months. None of them were ever, ever thumb suckers. Nor did they bottle feed or take a binki. Baby 4 is 9 months and has been my first kid to occasionally suck her thumb, but she has mostly grown out of it. She's still happily nursing too.

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