Health

Bed-sharing doesn't slow development, study finds

Parents who let their toddlers sleep in the same bed as them aren't slowing their learning and behaviour development, a new U.S. study has found.
A new U.S. study has found no connection between toddlers who share a bed with a parent and cognitive and behaviour problems at age five.

Parents who let their toddlers sleep in the same bed as them aren't slowing their learning and behaviour development, a new U.S. study suggests.

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, took into account families' socioeconomic status, mothers' education levels and mothers' parenting skills.

Among children who slept in the same bed as their parents and then had slower cognitive and behaviour development, researchers found that socioeconomic status, education and parenting skills were likely responsible rather than the bed-sharing.  

"The findings from this study suggest that there is no association between the ages of one and three years and cognitive and behavioural outcomes at five years of age," the authors write in their discussion.

"The negative association between bed-sharing and letter-word identification [the test used to determine cognitive development] was attributable to the socioeconomic characteristics, maternal education, and mothering practices of those who bed-shared, rather than bed-sharing itself."

The study looked at information collected from 944 interviews done for an Early Head Start program evaluation. The interviews were done at one, two and three-year home visits, with cognition and behaviour evaluated at the five-year home visit.   The research confirms what previous studies found, which is that black and Hispanic parents were more likely than non-Hispanic whites to bed-share.

Of the 944 interviewed, 31 per cent were black, 25 per cent Hispanic, 38 per cent white non-Hispanic, and four per cent identified as other. About 82 per cent of the mothers were U.S.-born; 73 per cent lived below the poverty line and 41 per cent didn't graduate from high school. Nearly half the families in the study said in at least one interview that they shared their bed.  

Contrary to previous research, this study didn't find an association between maternal depression and bed-sharing, though the researchers suggest that could be because previous studies looked at children under two, when mothers were closer to the postpartum period. 

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