Explore

New Study Says Bed-Sharing Leads to Mental Health Issues in Kids, But I’m Not Buying It

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

A headline popped up on my Facebook feed this morning that seriously gave me pause: Apparently, a new study is claiming that bed-sharing leads to mental health issues in kids. Yikes! As a long-time co-sleeper myself, the article definitely struck a nerve, and honestly made me feel a little uncomfortable.

I have two boys, ages 4 and 9, who spend a fair amount of the night in my room. They sleep in their own rooms and beds too, but we have an open-door policy here, and most nights, we have at least one boy camped out in our room.

Although I certainly don’t apologize for my parenting choices, it’s hard not to feel as though everything you say or do as a parent is under a microscope sometimes and that you are constantly being judged, especially when some of the choices you make stray from the mainstream — and articles like this one certainly don’t help in the matter.

As it happens, my kids are pretty well adjusted, as are many of the co-sleeping kids I know. My husband and I also slept with our parents for a good deal of our childhoods, and we turned out to be pretty well-adjusted adults.

Of course, the people I know who co-sleep are only a small portion of the population, and I am not a mental health researcher myself. But my gut has always told me that co-sleeping was not an issue in terms of mental health, so when I read the headline of this recent study, I was kind of dumbfounded.

But I wanted to give it a chance, so I read the study.

The research was published in The Journal Of Affective Disorders, and looked at a sample of 3,583 children from Brazil to assess how bed-sharing affected them as they got older. Some of the participants had never shared a bed with their parents; some had only done so as infants; and a smaller percentage bedshared into later childhood.

The childrens’ mental health was evaluated by child psychiatrists at variable intervals during their lives, up to age six, using the Developmental and Well-Being Assessment. In the end, researchers found that the children who shared a bed with their parents longest suffered from more mental health issues (like depression, anxiety, and ADHD) than those who didn’t.

The grand conclusion of the researchers was: “Early and persistent bed-sharing is associated with an increased occurrence of internalizing problems at the age of 6 years.”

Did you jaw just drop to the floor? Well, mine did.

Here’s the thing: As a long-term co-sleeper, and “crunchy mom,” I have never thought that everyone should do exactly as I do. I think the way we parent is a very personal choice, and that no one should get to decide how we parent but ourselves. And as much as I have respect for science and like to read the latest studies that come out, I also know that we all need to take what we read with a grain of salt, and that there’s almost always more than one side to an issue.

As I predicted, a quick Internet search led me to a ton of articles and research studies that state the exact opposite findings of this Brazil study. In 2011 for example, the medical journal Pediatrics released a study on the long-terms effects of bed-sharing in children up to the age of 5. And guess what? Researchers in that study found there was no negative association between co-sleeping and behavior or cognitive abilities of the children whatsoever.

Dr. James McKeena, one of the world’s top co-sleeping researchers (he’s written over 139 scientific articles on the subject!), cites five different research studies in the FAQ section of his website concerning the long-term effects of bed-sharing. He concludes that co-sleeping has many positive long-term benefits, including, “strong independence, social competence, feelings of high self-esteem, strong sexual identities, good comportment by children in school, [and] ability to handle stress.”

And as McKeena noted in an interview with Huffington Post last year, 90% of the world co-sleeps with their kids at one point or another. Yeah, they may not all be as gung-ho about it as I am, but I don’t think I know one parent who hasn’t told me that they co-sleep at least once in a while. In fact, I venture to guess that a lot of parents end up doing it a whole lot more than they’ll admit, since it’s still considered somewhat taboo in our culture to be “out” about it.

So yep — I’m taking this latest research with a grain of salt. Because I just don’t think so many of us can be screwing up our kids that much when we let them snuggle up in bed with us — and it seems that there’s a ton of research to back me up on that belief, too.

Bed-sharing definitely isn’t for everyone, and I’m certainly not saying you should change your sleeping arrangements if they work for you. But as far as I’m concerned, sharing a bed with my kids is one of the most natural, comforting, and peaceful things on earth, and I’m not going to let one study ruin that for me.

More On
Article Posted 3 years Ago

Videos You May Like