Harlow also found that if an orphan monkey was raised with two wire structures in the cage, a plain one and one that was wrapped in a soft blanket, the baby monkey chose to cling to the soft one when nursing. Then, when a frightening toy or a group of baby monkeys was placed in the cage, the orphan again went to the soft “surrogate mother” for comfort. The blanket didn't make up for a live mom, but these little monkeys weren't nearly so impaired as those raised with only a plain wire structure. The comfort they were able to derive from the soft blanket made the difference.
In the human world, it's common for toddlers to become so attached to a particular object they can't bear to be separated from it. The object doesn't have to be something soft, like a blanket. Some youngsters develop affection for a toy truck or flashlight. What matters is the bond the child has formed with it. These special objects help toddlers cope with situations that require a separation from their parent, such as going to day care or to bed.
What is a comfort object?
A comfort or transitional object is the popular term for a blanket, piece of clothing, toy, or other object that serves as a child's “surrogate mother.” If your child derives comfort from one, respect this important relationship!
Parents may be frustrated if their toddler insists on having the same toy at his side every moment of the day and sleeps with it at night. As the months go by and their child's grip on Mr. Teddy or his “blankie” remains as tight as ever, they begin to picture their toddler walking up to the podium at high school graduation clutching the bedraggled toy under his arm.
Fortunately, no such incident has ever been recorded, and there's no reason to believe your darling will be the first! The social pressures of kindergarten can be counted on to bring a quick end to the love affair with an inanimate object — at least in public. Lots of teens still cuddle their teddy at night, so don't worry about your child's need for a comfort object, and don't push your child to relinquish it. If your child seems overly attached to a comfort object, try to give more hugs and spend more time cuddling.