Dental Problems

What are the Causative Factors for the Sucking Habit?

thumb sucking preventionSucking thumb or finger is one of the common habits of children which causes the loss of tooth alignment in the front teeth. There are various causative factors for the sucking habits which are discussed below in this article. Let us examine them.

Causative factors for the sucking habit:

  • Parent’s occupation:

    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-socioeconomic group is unable to provide the infant with sufficient breast milk.

    Hence, in this process the infant suckles intensively for a long time to get the required nourishment, thereby also exhausting the sucking urge. The development of a suckling 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 for a long time to get sufficient nourishment. Thus, they exhausted the whole of their sucking urge.

  • Working mother:

    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.

  • Number of siblings:

    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 attempt to compensate his feelings of insecurity by means of this habit.

  • Order of birth of the child:

    It has bee 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.

  • Social adjustment and stress:

    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.

  • Feeding practices:

    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 or finger sucking.

  • Age of the child:

    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 regression to an infantile behavior pattern.

In spite of contrasting views regarding the etiology 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.

The above article discusses about the

causative factors of the thumb sucking habit


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