Monday, 19 November 2007

leaving babies to cry causes long term emotional problems

The Australian authors of Helping Your Baby To Sleep (Finch Publishing), Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor, argue that controlled crying is detrimental to children and can have serious long-term effects.

Gethin, a health social scientist, and Macgregor, a psychologist, draw heavily on attachment theory showing the importance of secure parent-child bonding.

The authors say that when infants are left to cry for long periods, they become more and more despairing until they reach a state of "learned helplessness". They stop trusting their parents, the precious bond is broken and the child is at risk of developing emotional and social problems, including depression, later in life.

"Depriving a baby of parental care and contact at bedtime does not teach a baby independence," the authors say. "Instead he learns that his parents cannot be relied upon to provide comfort and reassurance and so gives up calling for help."

The book also refers to recent research that shows an infant's brain is flooded with toxic hormones following stressful situations, and that repeated trauma can damage neural pathways.

The book is bound to cause debate, especially as controlled crying is recommended by many early childhood nurses and well-known parenting authors.

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