Anorak News | Forever Young: why adults still sleep with cuddly toys

Forever Young: why adults still sleep with cuddly toys

by | 21st, November 2018

Forever Young: Why Do Adults Still Sleep With Cuddly Toys?

When you were very small, you probably had a teddy bear. It’s a rite of passage for every young child; some relative will buy one for us the moment we’re born, and it’s there by our side for the entire time we’re growing up. They get battered and beaten, an eye falls off, a parent has to do their best at stitching it up when a hole appears in it, and by the time you’re six or seven it looks like it’s survived a war. You love it, though. It’s been your constant companion for as long as you can remember. Getting rid of it can be quite a wrench.

It’s even more of a wrench if you have a whole fleet of the things surrounding you. Having one teddy bear can lead to a love of all things soft and cuddly, and your favourite bear might have a whole army of fluffy friends including hippos, gorillas, giraffes, penguins, and just about any other cute looking animal who can be rendered in a form you can snuggle up to. However, the day finally came where you were no longer a child. Even the Bible saw this day coming. To quote Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” The text seems to explicitly suggest that it’s men who should be putting the toys in the bin when they reach a certain age, but it’s generally expected of both sexes that eventually you’ll stop collecting toys and start worrying about getting a mortgage instead.

In the 21st Century, we don’t seem to be following that understanding anymore.

Soft Toys Become Forever Friends

A study conducted earlier on this year has revealed that a staggering forty three percent of Americans still sleep with a stuffed toy. It wasn’t a small survey either; over two thousand people were polled, and nearly half of them are still taking a teddy bear – or something very much like a teddy bear – to bed with them. You might look at that figure, smile to yourself, and think ‘typical Americans’, but this is not exclusively a British issue.

You have to go back a little further to find a reliable survey that was performed in the UK, but Travelodge asked six thousand people about it in 2010, and found that half of us at least own a teddy bear from childhood, and a third of them still go to bed with them. Even more amazingly, twenty five percent of the men who answered in the affirmative even said they go so far as to take their teddy bear away on business with them, because it ‘reminds them of home’.

The fact that we’re talking about men at all will come as a surprise to some. Many of you reading this article will have looked at the figures and presumed that the adults we’re talking about are mostly, if not all, women. Wrong again. Going back to the American study, eighty percent of all men still at least own at least one stuffed toy from childhood, even if they’re not going to bed with them. The figure for women is seventy seven percent.

The next supposition might be that it’s the Millennials, who are perceived as ‘soft’, who can’t bear to give their soft toys up. 30% of those 45-54 are apparently arctophiles, too. It’s not one age, or one gender, or one location. It’s all of us.

Why Is It Happening?

We’ll be careful with this question, because we’re very conscious that half of you reading this have a teddy bear and don’t believe there’s any issue with it, whereas the other half are stunned by the idea that there are so many people out there who have bedrooms that presumably look exactly the same way they did when they were ten.

For those who don’t go to bed with their teddy bears, the reasons for keeping them are usually sentimental. They’re often on shelves, or in unused parts of the house, gathering dust. As with many things we find when we go to cut down on clutter, coming across them again stirs memories, and when the nostalgia bites we can’t bring ourselves to throw them away. The fact it’s a teddy bear is immaterial; they’d feel the same about an old photo album. It’s just a reminder of happy times.

For the adults, the teddy is more likely to have become an ‘attachment object’. They’re go to items which we associate with reducing stress or anxiety. Perhaps it’s because they remind us of childhood, and a childhood was a safe place away from the strains and concerns of adult life. It’s a known phenomenon to psychologists, who say it’s a mostly harmless habit.

Entertainment Connections

It would seem that we have all been holding onto our teddy bears for decades, and not speaking to each other about it. The knowledge that so many other people out there are doing it is presumably comforting to those who do. If nearly half of the population have a teddy bear, then we certainly can’t call it weird. In fact, figures like that suggest there’s a vast swathe of the population who have an interest that isn’t being catered to.

That fact that this information is now known might explain the slow emergence of soft toys in the world of grown up entertainment. The popular online slot game Fluffy Favourites features a whole host of cuddly characters, with cute features designed to remind the player of childhood. It’s one of several games on the Money Reels website to contain features that remind us of childhood, but it’s by far and away the most popular. Something about the game obviously tapped into the preferences of casual gamblers, and made it a more attractive choice to play than the others games offered on the website.

Then there’s the ‘Ted’ movies, which if you haven’t seen, are the hilarious escapades of one man and his teddy bear, who’ve been friends since childhood. The bear, like his owner, has become sassy, foul mouthed and ill-behaved, but then it’s as old as he is, so why shouldn’t it? Both movies were a huge success, making massive amounts of money and suggesting there’s a definite audience out there for adult-and-bear stories.

So, then, here we are. We can no longer say that teddy bears are the preserve of childhood. They’re our friends for life, and may go on to outlast most of our adult relationships. How long before we see a teddy bear ‘walk someone up the aisle’, or serve as a groom’s ‘best man’? Should we start allowing new recruits to the army to bring them along to barracks? Time will tell. It always does.

Posted: 21st, November 2018 | In: Strange But True Comment | TrackBack | Permalink