I have just returned from a few days by the seaside. The weather was great and fun was had by all. Unfortunately, even in such an idyllic scene crisis is only a step away.
Whilst visiting a quaint seaside village we had been to the lifeboat museum and both my daughters had got lifeboat teddy bears. We then had a bit of a walk around until disaster struck. My youngest daughter dropped her bear and—to her horror—it was snatched by a seagull. On the upside it was a youngster which hadn't yet learned to fly. There weretears, sqwaking, seagull chasing and eventually the bear was returned.
(For those of you interested grabbing the bird first and then taking the bear did the trick. My quick thinking saved the day, again!)
'What's this got to do with psychology?' I hear you cry. Why was my 2 year old holding a teddy bear? Why do kids love their comfort blankets or that old doll that's half fallen to pieces? Donald Winnicott a pediatrician and psychoanalyst researched this in the 60's and coined the phrase 'transitional object'. His view was that in early life the child sees them and their mother as a whole and that their needs are immediately met. As they grow they necessarily start to learn that they and their mother are separate, this is experienced as distress and frustration. The transitional object (bear) allows the child to transfer the bond in part and deal with this transition through self-soothing.
Such concepts are remarkably difficult to research so we are not entirely sure Donald's intuitions were right, but that children form very strong bonds to their bears and dolls any parent can confirm.