Infant and Child Development

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Volume 13 Issue 5 (December 2004), Pages 369-453

Co‐sleeping: Help or hindrance for young children's independence? (pages 369-388)


This study investigated the relationship between sleep arrangements and claims regarding possible problems and benefits related to co‐sleeping. Participants were 83 mothers of preschool‐aged children. Data were collected through parent questionnaires. Early co‐sleepers (who began co‐sleeping in infancy), reactive co‐sleepers (children who began co‐sleeping at or after age one), and solitary sleepers were compared on the dimensions of maternal attitudes toward sleep arrangements; night wakings and bedtime struggles; children's self‐reliance and independence in social and sleep‐related behaviours; and maternal autonomy support. The hypothesis that co‐sleeping would interfere with children's independence was partially supported: solitary sleepers fell asleep alone, slept through the night, and weaned earlier than the co‐sleepers. However, early co‐sleeping children were more self‐reliant (e.g. ability to dress oneself) and exhibited more social independence (e.g. make friends by oneself). Mothers of early co‐sleeping children were least favourable toward solitary sleep arrangements and most supportive of their child's autonomy, as compared to mothers in other sleep groups. Reactive co‐sleepers emerged as a distinct co‐sleeping sub‐type, with parents reporting frequent night wakings and, contrary to early co‐sleepers, experiencing these night wakings as highly disruptive. Implications for parents and pediatricians are discussed. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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