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by Abigail Van Buren

Father's Authority Wanes as Son's Popularity Grows

DEAR ABBY: I'm 29, and my girlfriend, "Mia," is 25. We have been in a committed relationship for 10 months. A few weeks into our relationship I noticed that every time Mia was relaxing or riding in the car, she would suck her thumb. When she spends the night with me, she brings her baby blanket.

Mia used to be discreet about the thumb-sucking, but now she openly does it in front of my parents and our friends. She also sucks her thumb in front of her parents. From time to time they try to correct her, but when they do, she yells at them to "get off her back." When I mention it, she becomes upset and defensive and says she sees no reason to stop.

I care about Mia and don't want to hurt her, but friends and family have asked me about her habit. Is this just a bad habit or a sign of something else? -- LEFT WONDERING IN SEATTLE

DEAR LEFT WONDERING: Mia's thumb-sucking may be her way of relieving stress, or it could be a symptom of an underlying emotional disorder. However, if this is the way your girlfriend talks to her parents, you should recognize that it is also a sign of what you may have to look forward to in the future -- so be warned.