A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology has shown that the way parents help their toddlers sleep can affect their temperament, or the way they behave and respond to their environment. The study looked at 14 different cultures to compare how parents used different techniques to help their children sleep.
The study found that using gentle or passive techniques, such as cuddling or reading a story, was associated with more positive temperament outcomes in children, such as being more sociable and less prone to negative emotions. In contrast, using more active techniques, such as playing or going for a walk, was associated with greater distress proneness and negative emotionality.
The study’s authors suggest that passive techniques help infants develop self-soothing and regulation, which in turn can lead to greater soothability in non-sleep contexts. In contrast, active techniques may interfere with sleep quality, particularly for children who are more prone to negative emotions.
Interestingly, the study found that between-culture differences in the use of sleep-supporting techniques accounted for a greater amount of variance in temperament outcomes compared to within-culture differences. This suggests that the cultural context in which children are raised may influence how parents approach sleep-supporting techniques, and in turn affect their children’s temperament.
While the study’s findings may seem intuitive, they have important implications for parents and caregivers. Parents who are struggling with sleep difficulties in their children may want to consider using more passive techniques to soothe their children to sleep. Additionally, the study highlights the importance of considering cultural context in parenting practices and their impact on child development.
It’s important to note that the study has some limitations, such as relying on parent-reported data and a relatively small sample size. Future research may want to consider using more objective measures and larger sample sizes to further explore the relationship between sleep-supporting techniques and child temperament.