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Thumb Sucking

Is there a significant sex difference in thumb sucking?

We explore if there is a significant sex difference in thumb sucking and if girls are more prone to a thumb sucking habit than boys.

We all know that thumb sucking can be a habit which can be difficult to break. As a behavioural pattern if affects a large number of children – boys and girls. But is there any evidence to suggest it impacts one sex more than another.

Do girls really thumb suck more than boys?

Sex differences

Statistics show that approximately 50 percent of one-year olds suck their thumbs but understandably this decreases over the next few years. Unfortunately, however, many children do continue to thumb suck. By the time children are between seven and 11 years old, one in eight still suck their thumbs.

While it may be assumed that this is a habit that impacts boys and girls equally, that is not actually the case.

The British Orthodontic Survey has reported that girls are more likely to be prolonged digit suckers than boys.

The key word here is “prolonged.” In the first few years of childhood, boys and girls thumb suck at approximately the same rate. After the age of two, however, girls are more likely to continue with the habit. This has been backed up by a variety of studies from different academics around the world.

And it appears that this is not only the case for children. Adult women are also more likely to suck their fingers or thumbs than adult males.

Researchers in one Japanese study have even claimed that “finger-sucking is significantly more common in females than in males.”

So, why the difference?

As with so much to do with science and sex differences, there is no conclusive answer to this. Many scientists, however, have argued that the reason is likely to be due to social influences rather than genetics.

Researchers have noted that there tends to be the perception that boys who thumb suck are being “babyish” and that parents, carers and family members are more likely to encourage boys to stop.

On the other hand, thumb sucking is more likely to be seen as cute or socially acceptable for girls, leading to a higher percentage of regular thumb suckers.

Others have argued that it is deemed more appropriate for a girl to suck her thumb as it contributes to an image of innocence and cuteness that some parents may prefer in their daughters.

However, not all experts agree that the reason for the gender imbalance is purely social. Research quoted in the Journal of Paediatrics states that the greater incidence of thumb-sucking in girls was found not to be related to sexist attitudes. The authors of this research argued, instead, that girls tended to get more pleasure from oral related activity such as thumb sucking.

Fabric Thumb Guards

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A solution?

Regardless of whether you have boys or girls, or both, a Thumbsie® is the perfect way to end a thumb sucking habit.

Thumbsies® come in countless different designs, from footballs to mermaids and from tractors to flowers.

They come in five different sizes and fit over a thumb or fingers like a glove. A Thumbsie® can be worn at school and at play, and they are usually the talk of the playground.

Don’t believe us? Check out our fantastic reviews from very happy parents.

Want to know more about thumb sucking?

We provide a detailed analysis of thumb sucking and highlight a range of key statistics from organisations such as the British Orthodontic Society, the American Dental Association, the Mayo Clinic and Colgate. Find out more


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