Knowing the cause of thumb sucking by child is important for treatment planning. Thumb sucking is not any disease but it is a habbit acquired by child over a period of time. There can be different causes of thumbsucking by child. These can be parents occupation, working mothers, feeding practics etc. All these possible causes are discussed in detail as under:


This can be related to the socioeconomic status of the family. Families living in high socioeconomic status are blessed with ample sources of nourishment. The mother is in a better position to feed the baby and within a short time the baby’s hunger is satisfied. Mothers belonging to the low socio-economic group are unable to provide the infant with sufficient breast milk. Hence, in the process the infant suckles intensively for a long time to get the required nourishment, thereby also exhausting the sucking urge. The development of a sucking habit is said to be as a way of rechanneling the surplus sucking urge. This theory explains the increase in incidence of thumb sucking in industrialized areas when compared to rural areas. The African children needed to suck intensively. Thus they exhausted the whole of their sucking urge.


 The sucking habit is commonly observed to be present in children with working parents. Such children brought up in the hands of a caretaker may have feelings of insecurity. Therefore, they use their thumb to obtain a secure feeling.


The development of the habit can be indirectly related to the number of siblings. As the number increases the attention meted out by the parents to the child gets divided. A child neglected by the parents may attempts to compensate his feelings of insecurity by means of this habit.


It has been noticed that the later the sibling rank of a child, the greater the chance of having an oral habit. It has been speculated that to some extent siblings imitate one another in sucking. 


Digit sucking has also been proposed as an emotion based behavior related to difficulty with social adjustment or with stress. Although sucking for psychological satisfaction as well as for food is considered normal in infancy, digit sucking in older children has been told to be associated with abnormal psychological development. The psychological effects may be compounded by the emotional impact of peer pressure and punitive and scolding parents


Various controversies exist in this regard as to the influence of feeding modes to the development of the habit. Thumb sucking is seen to be more frequent among breast-fed children. Yet abrupt weaning from the bottle or breast has also been hypothesized to contribute to acquiring an oral habit. A negative relation is also seen between breast-feeding and the development of dummy of finger sucking.
  • The time of appearance of digit sucking habit has significance.
  • In the neonate : insecurities are related to primitive demands as hunger
  • During the first few weeks of life:  Related to feeding problems.
  • During the eruption of the primary molar: It may be used as a teething device.
  • Still later:children use the habit for the releases of emotional tensions with which they are unable to cope, taking refuge in regressing to an infantile behavior pattern.
In spite of contrasting views regarding the causes there is some agreement that if the habit continues beyond the age of 6-7 months it is difficult to break it until the child is 4-5 years. Thus it was suggested that the habit should be viewed by the clinician as a behavioral pattern of multivariate nature. Thumb sucking may begin for one reason and be sustained by other factors at different ages.

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