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Is it a social class thing? Snobbery or Common as muck

170 replies

wondergirl · 11/07/2004 22:26

Hi people.

Please give your opinion on this that follows matter, particularly if you are not from the areas mentioned in this discussion, as myself and many others would like to get a wider opinion. I hope no one will be affended by the content of this discussion. I have not stated any of the strong opinons against dummy use that were given during the questionnaires, to limit any offence.

A couple of months ago, I participated in a class project as part of my A-level sociology combined psychology, which looked at the use of children's comfort items and societies view/opinion of them.
My group within the class was allocated the task of looking at the use of dummies/soothers. Other groups within the class looked at other comfort objects like beakers, favourite toy, babies bottle, security blanket etc.
As an whole the class research showed very interesting results, but it was the DUMMY issue that generated most discussion.
It seemed almost everyone (parents and none parents) surveyed had an opinion on dummies being used as comfort items, more so than any other comfort item.


Our group carried out a questionaire for one day in each of the following town/city centres; Leamington Spa, Nuneaton, Coventry and Sutton Coldfield (All midlands based).
On average, we surveyed about 100 individuals of all ages and sexes from each location.
When the results from all locations were collated thses were the main findings:

67% of people surveyed thought children with dummies in public looked common.

70% of this 67% were themselves not parents (if this is of any interest).

87% thought children allowed to have dummies beyond the age of three or four years old in public not only looked awful, but also suggested poor parenting.

95% thought dummies/soothers used with babies was perfectly fine, but not with toddlers.

59% thought dummies are used more for the parents convienience rather than the childs.

Of the 59% above with this opinion, 76% claimed they felt dummy use was more commonly seen with single mums, with a few kids in tow where dummies are dished out for a quite life, instead of attention.

47% said they associated dummy use more with lower class than middle and upper class parents.

92% with this opinion above were not themselves parents.

I do not know about you lot reading this, but at the time I found these findings rather shocking, I never knew people were so hung-up with a little piece a plastic and rubber called a dummy, that a child sucks on for comfort!!!!!

With regards to these findings, my group and the rest of the class were particularly interseted in why so many people thought dummies were vile and common, and why they associted them with less financially well off families!

Our group tried to find out if there was any real grounds to support this class divide concerning dummy use.
Our group split up and spent a whole day at three different locations to monitor the freqeuncy of observations for children with dummies.
(I will not disclose the locations used for this monioring, as I do not wish to affend anyone).

At each location we tryed to record the total amount of children with and without dummies (told you they were crude measures). Additional to this we trawled round each location collecting dummies off the floor (the ones you see lying around that get lost by kids).

It seems this crude monitoring kind of supports this opnion about dummy use being higher in lower class society when compared to upper class.

This time the general findings were:

It was observed that there was definately more kids with dummies at the designated lower class location compared to middle and upper class locations.

It was also observed at the lower class location that the ratio of children to parent/caregiver was higher than the other locations.

Children up to the age of 4 or 5 (estimation) were commonly seen with dummies at the designated lower class site, but virtually absent from the other locations used.

The total number of lost dummies found at the end of the day at each location was; lower-class 27, middle-class 9 and upper-class 2.

So after all this, what is my humble opinion on the matter?

Well I myself am not happy about dummies being associated with common families, as I myself had a dummy when I was a child, and today many of my friends and family use dummies with thier children, and I would regard them as being far from common as muck.
Its obvious from this kind of research and general postings on the issue on web-sites like this one, that it is dummy use with older children in public that is frowned upon most, and given that more older children from lower-class families are seen with dummies increases this class divide over dummies.
I myself hate to see children in public over 3 and 4 years old with a dummy, as it does look awful, but I do not think the parents are common or poorer caregivers than parents of dummy-less children.
Unfortunately most things in life get abused and I feel dummies are certainly one them.
Dummies if used correctly are good for both the childs and parents physical and mental well-being, but if abused it can turn into a vulgare and disgusting habit, which most society seems unable to tollerate.


OP posts:
Samcj · 12/07/2004 01:19

I'm not a mum as yet (just an expectant one) but I feel quite open to the use of dummies. The reason I have is this. I had the awful habit of sucking my thumb till I was 10/11. I actually had to undergo a 'weaning program' to stop me from doing it!! I think research has shown that dummies mean less thumb sucking. A couple of years later I had six teeth removed and three years of braces (2 years train tracks). This was actually very painful.
I believe not having a dummie started a bit of an oral fixation for me, having smoked untill a couple of years ago!! Now I just stuff it with food!! Very much they should be used with caution and not something relied to heavily upon. As regards to being a class thing, i kind of feel by quantifying it like this it almost becomes an issue when there does not need to be one. Everyone has freedom of choice, and parenting styles are reflected in social class I'm sure. Very interesting research though.

MeanBean · 12/07/2004 01:27

I never gave either of my kids a dummy, simply because I could never be bothered to buy one and then chase after it every time they threw it out of the pram.

DS still sucks his thumb at 5 and DD at 2 has never sucked her thumb.

Fascinating that there's so much prejudice about it; it's never bothered me in the least, I don't see why it's a problem. But then, other people get hysterical about my DS still sucking his thumb, and I just don't think it's that important. If kids want to comfort themselves, why not?

carla · 12/07/2004 01:46

wondergirl ... Fascinating!!!

dd1 is 5, but from very early age told her she could not ever, ever walk round with one. I really hate to see that. Did you glean any ideas about how other parents have dumped them? DD2 is a thumb sucker, and I don't know what's worse!

meanmum · 12/07/2004 01:55

Interesting research for sure. I don't have these hangups about dummies yet neither of my 2 have taken a dummy. Not for want of trying. Ds wasn't a sucky baby and even though dd is she gags on one when I put it in her mouth. One thing I thought of in terms of your research is.... do you think there was less evidence of the use of dummies in the so called higher class locations due to the actual area you were observing, ie. do people from middle and upper classes frequent shopping malls or wherever it was you were undertaking your observation and also what time of the day was it as are social habits different dependant upon so called class? I don't know but assume things like this need to be factored into the research findings in some way.

One other thing I find interesting is that England (London where I am) is so different from Australia (where I am from) as there tends to be a mix of all classes and cultures in each area and even though some areas (like where I live) might be classified as middle or high class in fact the diversity of the population in my area is so broad in reality I think it would be quite hard to actually classify. So, historically the UK population may view certain locations/areas as being of different class structures but in reality is there really that much difference in today's society.

nightowl · 12/07/2004 01:57

well ive never really had a problem with dummies. my ds had one up until he was about 3 1/2 when i started to get him off it. my mil had a complete fit about this and said i was making his life a misery (there was no problem, he had happily agreed to just have it overnight for a while) my stepmother would always make comments about it "oooh look at that ugly thing in your mouth" but its MY choice and i dont really care what anyone else thinks. an interesting fact for you: i am probably considered to be lower class by many. my dd has never had a dummy, she never wanted one. she sucks her fingers instead. yet my family, who are definately upper class had her for the first time last weekend...they tried to give her a dummy. i dont really think class has a lot to do with it...and what exactly is class anyway? i know people who came from the same background as myself yet they married into money and so are now considered "different" to the rest of us. "class" has never mattered to me and never will. its not where you came from, its who you are and how you present yourself that matters. there are good and bad people everywhere..class, race, has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Linnet · 12/07/2004 02:01

My first daughter had a dummy but she only had it at bedtime to help her over to sleep. She got it at 3 months and She gave it up when she was 1 year old. She never ever left the house with her dummy and never had it during the day, managed to sleep during the day without it but for some reason liked it to settle her to sleep in the evenings.

my second daughter who is now just 6 weeks old also has a dummy. dd2 has been a very sucky baby from the workd go hence the reason why she has it at such an early age. But again she only really uses it for going to sleep sometimes, not everytime she goes to bed. If she doesn't want it she spits it out and will quite often go to sleep without it. Again she only gets it in the house never when we're out and about in the pram.

I don't have a problem with people using dummies, if it placates the child and keeps them happy then so be it. I will admit that I personally don't like seeing older children with dummies.

I found your results very interesting but I wonder how many of the middle class and upper class babies/children had dummies at home that they only get at bedtime that nobody knows about.

nightowl · 12/07/2004 02:09

there is another bigger thread on this so ive posted my comment there also...i think its in chat or other for anyone who's interested.

nightowl · 12/07/2004 02:10

its in chat

expatkat · 12/07/2004 03:35

I definitely believe dummy snobbery is related to class snobbery in this country. I've said this on mumsnet before, though no one likes to hear it. . .

I had reason to think about this subject again recently and actually did some research to try to find evidence that dummy use/acceptance is related to class. . .but I came up with nothing. And thenvoilayou apear, wondergirl. . .how funny. It's good to see your statistics, though I was already convinced by my empirical observations.

Lethal · 12/07/2004 09:09

I saw some photos of Jude Law's daughter in a magazine the other day and she had a dummy in both photographs - except that she looks about six or seven yrs old!!! She was riding a bike in one photo and playing with another child in the other photo, and on both occasions she had a dummy in her mouth.

I must admit feeling a bit horrified when I saw it, but in this case I don't see what it's got to do with "class". I bit the bullet a couple of months ago and took the dummy away from my ds when he was 3 1/2, because I thought he was getting too old for it. It took a couple of weeks for him to get used to it but all is fine now - he never had one in public anyway, only at nap time.

Fio2 · 12/07/2004 10:17

wel;l how controversial is my post going to be?

I have lived in some of the areas and have friends and relatives who live in the areas. i am unsure whether the findings in your survey would be so honest. the people in Lemington Spa for example, think they are middle class if they are working class and if they are middle class think they are upper. Same goes for sutton coldfield. In my experience that is. Therefore I conclude that it was most probably snobbery but how could you be sure by research that the people were either working, middle or upper class? My SIL for one frequents Sutton shopping and very much thinks of herself as middle class. She works part time as a mobile hairdresser and her husband works in a factory. They wear tweed and suits and attempt to talk posh. They really beleive they are middle class, why? I have no idea when it is so plainly obvious they are working class. So my question to you is how did you determine who belong to which social class? If you asked random people would they tell you the truth and would they even know which part of the social economic class they fitted into? I know for one my SIL think shopping at Beatties and buying from M&S food hall gives her a passport to think she is indeed middle class. Just a thought.

As for the dummy issue. It is a comforter. my daughter never used one but my son who is 2 1/2 still uses it. I am working class. He is middle class. Were there any finding of the research that found that dummy users came from mixed social backgrounds?

As for the fact that the high pertentage of people in the survey were not parents themselves says alot really. When confronted with a newborn baby that does nothing but scream most of us as parents will try ANYTHING to pacify them. If this results in a dummy being given, then so be it. I dont have a problem with it and I certainly didnt think "oh my god I cant use one, I will be common!" Too late for that anyway

jampot · 12/07/2004 10:28

Both of my children had dummies when they were babies but once they were about 1 I didn't allow them out of the house as I hate to see children sucking on these things. I don't view dummy giving as financially linked nor marital status linked, but I am not surprised by your results. I personally also hate to see children with a "bottle of tea" more than a dummy - whatever the age.

gothicmama · 12/07/2004 10:28

To make sense of your findings it would be interesting to know if you asked your respondents their perceived social status and also to know how you determined a locations class status. I think the problem with dummies is taht parents do not know how to stop children using them adn do not want a row. I thinkmuch as this is reflected in society's embrace of the me me me culture and also the pursuit of leisure and the media portrayal of everyone being a happy family. If a child will not stop using a dummy or your child cries for it what do you do you either upset the child further by the removal of it (hard if dad/mum is on shiftwork or you are a lone parent) or you do the best you can to comfort the child. At the end of the day I think it comes to parental choice, what peers are doing and education and confidence in your ability as a parent. Where I live children often have dummies or alternatively bottles of pop or tea but I would not like to estimate teh social status of these families

jampot · 12/07/2004 10:38

Fio - that's a good point. I live in the Snob Capital of the Midlands - Solihull where everyone thinks they are rich (!) regardless of wealth.

My friend and I often have discussions about social class and we believe that your social class no longer is determined by your occupation but by your morals and ethics, attitudes and beliefs. For instance, a single mother/father who works in a retail environment but ensures that their children are supported in their education and actively encourages good schooling and access to information to broaden their horizon but maybe shops in Aldi could still be construed as middle class because of attitudes. I don't believe you need loads of money to have middle class views and ethics. However, a woman/man who is a lawyer/teacher etc who believes that his/her children should sit on a games console all day and not be exposed to books/theatre/arts/etc and not do homework but maybe shops in M&S could be construed as working class. Don't think profession buys the right to social class any more.

nightowl · 12/07/2004 11:19

here here jampot, thats how i think but no way could i have explained it like that!!

spikeycat · 12/07/2004 11:36

ds1 still has his dummy @ 18 months, and I don't care a toss what people think! I do take it off him when we are out but at home or in the car he can have it. The more worrying thing with dummies is that they don't talk when they have got their mouth full with one, which is the reason I have begun to restrict it. We will be saying good bye to the dummy on his birthday in december.
Intrestingly, ds2 has no intrest what so ever in a dummy @ 12 weeks and likes to suck his fingers.

I don't know what social group I belong to, as I don't tend to catorgorise myself, I have a broad selection of friends from all different backgrounds.

DP is a company director, we own our house (well, the bank does - you know what I meant) and have two cars, but like jampot says, a profession doesn't buy you access to a social group, dp swears like a trouper and I am sure if people heard him they would think he was a right herbert!

Ghosty · 12/07/2004 11:49

Interesting discussion this ...
Wondergirl, I agree with Fio2 with what she says about the high percentage of people surveyed not being parents themselves. Had I been approached by someone before I had children and been asked about dummies I probably would have said, "No child of mine will ever have a dummy!".
Ha ha ha ... I tried to get DS to have a dummy for weeks and weeks and weeks ... just to have five minutes peace and DD is 5 months old and loves her dummy!

DH recently heard an interview on the radio with a man (can't remember his name) who has spent 10 years researching cot death. His opinion is that dummies help prevent cot death in that they help keep airways free. He said that dummies were better than thumbs and both were better than nothing ....

As to a class thing ... hmmmm ... dunno ... never really get into 'class' debates ... hate them ...

Samcj · 12/07/2004 13:03

Definately agree with the whole social class who's who debate. I think the govenment have reclassed recently though or are about too? My job and DP's would put us quite high up on the scale, but it is just irrelevent. We live in a one bedroom flat and are struggling to imagine how we are going to afford anything bigger. I also love a bargain so I will often be seen in places that may be considered lower class, but why not?

Also very true about dummy habits, the fact that the participants were mostly not parents and would be interesting to know where they placed themselves on the social scale (and what their reasons for placing themselves at that position were).

It does seem crazy today when everyone's life and lifestyle is so individual to try and categorise them. This system used to work when the society was so clearly set, the employers and the workers and those who did not have to work at all!! But what class would you put some one in who has high earnings but a large percentage of their earnings as outgoings for debts etc.

I really would prefer it if this whole idea of class could be forgotton, the whole attitude of trying to better yourself to climb up the social scale is truely ridiculous.

A follow up longitudinal study would be intersting indeed, what would these people feel when they are faced with their own children?? Sorry Wondergirl, we all seem to be trying to make more work for you!!

Fizog · 12/07/2004 13:18

Ooo couldn't help picking up on the 'dummies being associated with single mums' comment.

How do you draw conclusions that a woman is a single parent? because of the way they look? because no wedding ring? because they don't happen to be with a partner at the moment in time when they are observed?? (I'm not attacking just very interested )

As a single parent myself and someone who is interested in social behaviour I would love to hear how the opinion was determined..

Incidentally my dd has never had a dummy, the only reason being that she was so placid I never felt the need to give her one, she has a comfort blanket that she is allowed at night time and when she's poorly or when we're just slobbing around the house (as a special treat), she sucked her thumb from as soon as she could find her mouth with it until about 8 months but then stopped, without any encouragement.

Wondergirl, I have to say I think your iniative to post on this (any) parenting site is credible and would love to hear if you take this debate/research further and how you get on.

Hulababy · 12/07/2004 13:19

On the larger thread (Chat) Wondergirl has explained further some of the research techniques and questions asked. One of the questions was to ask if people had a partner or not, for the single mu bit I guess.

mummytosteven · 12/07/2004 13:37

I owe you an apology wondergirl. I was concerned by the number of different threads you started and the comment "Dummies if used correctly are good for both the childs and parents physical and mental well-being, but if abused it can turn into a vulgare and disgusting habit, which most society seems unable to tollerate."

Bugsy2 · 12/07/2004 18:06

I am probably what alot of people would call "posh": speak proper, home counties born & bred etc etc. I have no problem with dummies whatsoever. My two year old daughter currently wanders around with one in her mouth and sniffs the other one. Couldn't give two hoots. She talks in full sentences perfectly audibly when they are not in her mouth, so it clearly isn't delaying her speech and it keeps her happy.

Pagan · 13/07/2004 17:58

Jampot I couldn't agree more. I was thinking about this thread when I read it late last night. Being north of the border I am unfamiliar with the areas mentioned regarding class but it got me thinking. How many of those questioned where out and out working class and proud and what would their views on dummies be?

I was raised on working class council scheme in a mining village along with my two elder brothers. My eldest bro had a dummy but me and other bro didn't. We were all bottle fed. Both my parents smoked indeed my mother smoked throughout her pregnancy with me. All of these things would be hugely frowned upon now (and I include myself as one of the main frowners) but we had a wonderful childhood, I love my parents to bits, wehave all grown to be well rounded individuals with good jobs and happy families ourselves. When my 2 brothers had their children, one family was breastfed, the other bottlefed - no-one commented as to what was right or wrong. Some had dummies others didn't - no one cared.

Now I find myself living in middle class suburbia. There are children around with dummies. There are children around who are bottle fed. And yes I find myself questioning this and then I stop to ask myself why!!!! Why am I so bothered about it now. I couldn't have cared less before. I think it is a reflection of the materialistic, social climbing society we live in these days. So we have to pick up on something to look down upon to make us think that we are better.

expatkat · 13/07/2004 18:49

Blimey, I was trying so hard to restrain myself from saying this, but Pagan's & Bugsy's comments make it too hard to resist following up with my (similar) observation that dummy snobbery is a sort of aspirational middle class snobbery. (Aloha said this once, and I completely agreed with her.) Probably because you're truly posh, Bugsy, you don't give a toss about dummies. And becaue I'm outside the class system more or less (& am not fussed about the world's appraisal of me in general) I also could not give a toss about dummies and find it so shocking that anyone else actually does. Pagan, your last paragraph is admirably honest and I would guess applies to a lot of people.

CountessDracula · 13/07/2004 18:54

Well said.

I do think that people get too worked up about dummies etc. As I have said before, surely dummies are right for some children and not others.

And quite frankly, who cares? It's only a bit of plastic. If you spend your life looking down on people for such pathetic, meaningless things, I feel you need to get a life.

Not once can I remember anyone looking at my dd in a funny way in her buggy if she has a dummy. If they did I would laugh at them for caring.

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