I'm 24 years old, and I still have my childhood blanket. What was once a pristine landscape of little bunnies building towers made of pastel-colored alphabet blocks is now a faded, torn pile of cotton. My well-traveled blanket has journeyed through college, crossed borders during study abroad trips, and ridden along on road trips and moves to the West Coast.
I wasn't sure if having my childhood blanket in adulthood was common, but when I reached out to people on Twitter, I quickly realized that I'm not alone.
Holding on to transition objects is more common than you think
A Travelodge poll of 6,000 British adults found that 35 percent of their adult guests tucked themselves in with a stuffed animal every night, a fascinating insight they discovered during attempts to reconnect guests with thousands of stuffed animal friends that had been left behind at their hotels. Developmental behavioral pediatrician Dr. Barbara Howard told the New York Times that about 25 percent of young women heading to college reported having some sort of personal keepsake.
Developmental psychologists refer to them as attachment or transition objects, Margaret S. Clark, a professor of psychology at Yale University, explained to me, because they can provide comfort and reassurance to children transitioning from greater to lesser dependence on primary caretakers.
"They calm children's transition from home to school at times," she said.
Use of transition objects is common around the ages of 2 or 3 years old, and they gradually lose appeal without much intervention, Clark noted. As children get older, they may keep objects around but not carry them everywhere. Blankets are the most common objects, she added, but stuffed animals are also a popular choice.
From blankets to raccoons to bumblebees
When I asked to see photos, people were more than happy to share images of their beloved objects. Take a look at some that have stuck with their owners over time:
"A blanket that was crocheted for me, and a stuffed teddy bear with a music box in it." –Charles Nusbaum
"It's a raccoon puppet given to me by my Nana." –Jeanne Poremba
"I still have a stuffed animal (a dog, we think — it's got long basset hound ears and a face with a big nose like a dog, but the rest of it is shaped more like a teddy bear) from my childhood." –Katie Lootens
"I have a very small penguin stuffed animal and a bee too. I, uh, stole them from my sister when I was growing up because I liked them so much." –Dennis Lee
Clark says the behavior of having an attachment object is healthy and that most psychologists wouldn't advise taking objects away from young children. It doesn't seem to be an issue in adulthood, either.
"While having such an object in adulthood may well be associated with or even caused by anxieties or fears, I doubt that having such an object is harmful in any way other than, perhaps, by eliciting teasing," she said.
Adults might have different reasons for holding on to these special objects, but one thing is clear: There's a lot of love for these items. Maybe one day I'll pass my blanket down to my own children (if I can bring myself to part with it).