The Psychology of Attachment Objects

Zachary Furbush, Staff Writer

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As you walk around school, and see random people with odd objects and little stuffed animals, have you ever stopped to wonder “What are those people doing?” After reading through a plethora of scholarly articles on attachment or “transitional” objects, I began to find an answer, and one that was more or less unexpected. 

As a child, we all most likely had an attachment object: a blanket, a stuffed duck, a pacifier (or binky? ), or other inanimate objects that we became emotionally attached to for seemingly no reason. Having these attachment objects is  dependent on the way one was raised. Some parents practice “attachment parenting” where they “co-sleep” (sleep in the same bed) or feed on cue. This theory holds up through a cross cultural study by K. Michael Hong, M.D. and Brenda D. Townes, Ph.D., regarding infants in Korea and Japan who have fewer attachment objects as a result of the mother sleeping with the child and breastfeeding. 

That’s not to say that having an attachment object means you were raised poorly. According to a psychology journal The Psychologist, “Some experts refer to children’s attachment objects as ‘transitional objects’ because it is believed they aid the transition to independence.” That leads to the first connection with highschool. As we get jobs, our driver’s license, and even become old enough to vote, we slowly gain more and more independence. 

Similar to infancy, when transitioning into independence we tend to make emotional connections to inanimate objects that bring us comfort. As we get older, the object could become more out of the ordinary, such as a coin you stole from Old Navy, a stuffed animal you found on the sidewalk, or a pencil you’ve kept on you since the sixth grade. The Psychologist also mentions in regard to a study where the researchers asked kids from three to six years old if they would prefer to take home their original attachment object or a copy of it, “It’s as if the children believed their special object had a unique essence, a form of magical thinking that re-appears in adulthood in our treatment of heirlooms, celebrity memorabilia and artwork.Their reaction stands true to attachment objects made by adolescents, as the idea of “just getting a new one” doesn’t seem quite right and even to some extent immoral. 

The transition to independence from fiscal and emotional dependence is difficult. Having attachment objects is just one way of coping with the stress of life and provides an emotional outlet for safety and security. One could argue that having a “transitional object” is childish, but a better argument is that having one shows maturity. 

The emotional connection only shows transition to independence and is proof that you’re mature enough to not rely on your parents for emotional support. Having a stuffed animal around all the time isn’t something to scoff at and call stupid, it’s just a part of growing up and learning how to live.