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Comfort object


A comfort object, transitional object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations, or at bedtime for small children. Among toddlers, comfort objects may take the form of a blanket, a stuffed animal, or a favorite toy, and may be referred to by nicknames.

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.

Often charities will provide comfort objects such as blankets and quilts to survivors of disasters.

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.

In human childhood development, the term transitional object is normally used. It is something, usually a physical object, which takes the place of the mother-child bond. Common examples include dolls, teddy bears or blankets.

Donald Woods Winnicott introduced the concepts of "transitional objects" and "transitional experience" in reference to a particular developmental sequence. With "transition" Winnicott means an intermediate developmental phase between the psychic and external reality. In this "transitional space" we can find the "transitional object".

When the young child begins to separate the "me" from the "not-me" and evolves from complete dependence to a stage of relative independence, it uses transitional objects. Infants see themselves and the mother as a whole. In this phase the mother "brings the world" to the infant without delay which gives it a "moment of illusion", a belief that its own wish creates the object of its desire which brings with it a sense of satisfaction. Winnicott calls this subjective omnipotence. Alongside the subjective omnipotence of a child lies an objective reality, which constitutes the child’s awareness of separateness between itself and desired objects. While the subjective omnipotence experience is one in which the child feels that its desires create satisfaction, the objective reality experience is one in which the child independently seeks out objects of desire.



  • 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.
  • 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. (1953). Transitional objects and transitional phenomena – a study of the first not-me possession. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34, 89-97.
  • 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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