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A comfort object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort and emotional security, especially in unusual or unique situations.

Emergency vehicles and police patrol cars are sometimes equipped with stuffed toys, to be given to victims involved in an accident or traumatic shock and provide them comfort. Paramedics are trained to treat physical shock with a wide array of blankets designed to preserve heat, blood, and wounds for life threatening traumas.

Psychologists are experimenting with the use of heavy thick fleece blankets to replace restraints such as straitjackets. They have noted through experiments with children who have autism that weighted blankets have a desirable soothing effect to help calm agitated patients.[1]

Adults may also use comfort objects. In a 2008 study, the Sony AIBO robotic pet was found to decrease loneliness in the elderly in nursing homes.[2]

Japanese adults use comfort objects to cope with modern stress.[3]

Stuffed animals may be given by emergency medical services workers, police, and others to victims of disasters such as fires and crime. After the September 11 attacks, writes Marita Sturken in Tourists of History, "the Oklahoma City National Memorial sent six hundred teddy bears and then the state of Oklahoma sent sixty thousand stuffed animals to New York, which were distributed to children in schools affected by 9/11, family support organizations, and New York fire stations."[4]

Many adults consider the comfort that security blankets provide as essential to their mental and emotional well-being.[5]

Adults will take comfort objects away on business trips to remind them of home. According to a 2011 survey by Travelodge, about 35 percent of British adults still sleep with a teddy bear.[6]

See also


  2. Study: Dogs, Robots Cheer Elderly. Fox News. URL accessed on 2009-07-17.
  3. Security Blankets for Adults Kathi's Mental Health Review, March 25, 2002
  4. The recent history of such comfort objects, particularly teddy bears, as well a critique of their comfort-providing function can be found in Marita Sturken, Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumption from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), here p. 7.
  5. Do You Still Have a Security Blanket? Dr. John Grohol, PsychCentral, October 13, 2010
  6. 35 percent of British adults sleep with bear United Press International, February 21, 2012

Further reading

  • Abram, J. (1996). The Language of Winnicott. A Dictionary of Winnicott’s Use of Words, Karnac Books, London
  • Dell’Orto, S. (2003). W.D. Winnicott and the transitional object in infancy. Pediatric Medicine Chirurgic 25(2), 106-112.
  • Mitchell, S. A., Black, M. J. (1995). Freud and beyond: A history of modern psychoanalytic thought. New York: Basic Books.
  • O'Halloran, B.C. Creature Comforts, People and Their Security Objects
  • Passman, R. H. (1977). Providing attachment objects to facilitate learning and reduce distress: The effects of mothers and security blankets. Developmental Psychology, 13, 25-28.
  • Passman, R. H. (1987). Attachments to inanimate objects: Are children who have security blankets insecure? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 825-830.
  • Passman, R. H., & Halonen, J. S. (1979). A developmental survey of young children's attachments to inanimate objects. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 134, 165-178.
  • Passman, R. H., & Lautmann, L. A. (1982). Fathers', mothers', and security objects' effects on the responsiveness of young children during projective testing. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50, 310-312.
  • Winnicott, D.W. (1971). Playing and Reality, Routledge, London
  • Young, R. M. (1989). 'Transitional phenomena: production and consumption', in B. Richards, ed., Crises of the Self: Further Essays on Psychoanalysis and Politics. London: Free Association Books, pp. 57–72.
  • Young, R. M. (1994). Mental Space. London: Process Press.
  • Creature Comforts, People and Their Security Objects by Barbara Collopy O'Halloran and Photographed by Betty Udesen.
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