Students report attachment to childhood objects

Even though she’s a Youngstown State University senior, Sharon Courtney has kept a reminder of her childhood: a small blanket covered in deer, rabbits and birds.

She also sleeps with a dragon pillow pet she was introduced to a few years ago.

The blanket, purchased by her grandma, was passed down from her older brother. Courtney said she’s been sleeping with it ever since she can remember.

“My dad tried giving it to my niece when she was born, but I wouldn’t let him,” she said. “I mostly keep it now because my grandma died, and she meant everything to me.”

Courtney said her father bought the dragon pillow two years ago, and it never leaves her bed.

“Unless I go on a road trip, I’ll take it,” she said.

Courtney said her blanket, which is still in great condition, would follow her in the future.

“It’s the one thing I’d probably grab if I could only take one thing with me anywhere,” she said.

Michelle Welch, a communications major, said she used to sleep with a bear, which she received as a child. However, Welch rid herself of the bear as a night-time companion when she moved out of her mom’s house. Now she sleeps with a big floppy dog her boyfriend bought her.

“The bear was more of a security thing,” she said. “The one I sleep with now is more for comfort.”

Welch said she would most likely have them both for a long time because of their sentimental value.

“But I’ll eventually stop sleeping with them,” she said.    

Senior Justin Jenista said he finds comfort in another way. He sleeps with a comforter he’s had since he was 7.

“I still have it because it’s warm and comfortable,” he said. “Plus, I’m in college, and it’s not really a top priority to go out and get a newer one right about now.”

Jenista said he plans on keeping his comforter around — but only as an extra blanket.

William Fry, a psychology professor at YSU, said displacement is transferring the need for contact comfort onto some object, such as a teddy bear or blanket.

“It has some softness and some texture, which probably leads to a pleasant experience,” he said.

Fry said sleeping with an object provides some sense of comfort and security. It also relaxes a person.  

“That sort of familiarity is probably conducive to falling asleep,” he said.

Fry said research shows how contact comfort is a rewarding and pleasant experience.

“Everybody gets some sense of security, some sense of anxiety redemption from that sort of contact comfort provided by the softness and warmth,” he said.