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Thread: Children sleeping with parents : bad for the strength of character ?

  1. #1
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    Question Children sleeping with parents : bad for the strength of character ?

    I have a Japanese wife and two children. Among our friends are Japanese-Japanese couples, international couples and French couples. The pure Japanese families have the policy of letting their kids sleep in the same bed as the parents from birth to small childhood (at least until 5 years of age). Other couples don't do that. Children get their own bed as soon as they are back from the maternity, and their own room after a few months or one year at latest.

    I have observed that Japanese babies and children, who used to sleep with their parents, are nearly always more whiny, dependent and insecure. Those babies cry as soon as the mother is away, and often even when the mother is present. Babies raised with the habit of sleeping by themselves are much stronger in their mind. They can be left to play alone and won't complain. They don't get scared so easily. They are also less likely to cry when meeting strangers.

    Many Japanese adults lacl self-confidence, and are often insecure (s "fuan" as they say). I think this is because they grew up with the constant reassuring presence of their mother near them. They were over-protected. Spoiled children become selfish, but over-protected ones become insecure.

    There are many spoiled European kids, but few really insecure ones. That's because parents will buy them lots of toys to occupy them to have peace. Children play alone or with friends but don't bother their parents all the time. Japanese kids are literaly in their mother's skirts until the age of 5 or 6.

    I think that many Japanese people have a weaker strength of character and are less independent-minded because of the way they were raised, sleeping with the parents until late and being over-protected by the mother.

    Japanese-European couples often wonder which system they should adopt. To me the answer is clear: give the baby his/her own bed and room as early as possible.

  2. #2
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    That's an interesting analysis. I am surprised that there arent more replies. I think your points are very valid. I don't know Japanese culture well enough to judge but it makes a lot of sense explained like this.

  3. #3
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Also married to a Japanese. All the Japanese parents I know sleep with the children at least until they are 3 or 4 years old, but often later. It would be interesting to compare with other societies where children are used to sleep with their parents to see if they also lack self-confidence and individualism. As far as I know children sleep with their parents in all East Asian countries too, so it's hard to determine if the low individualism and high sense of insecurity/gregariousness of East Asians is genetic or results from this cultural specificity of co-sleeping.

    I found a scientific study on the subject about Chinese kids. It says that 79% of pre-school children and 53% of school-aged children share their parents' bed. The study is about the quality and quantity of sleep and does not mention the effect of co-sleeping on personality development.

    According to this website, solitary infant sleeping is a principally western practice which started in the 18th century. It is certainly not a coincidence that European societies developed into strongly individualistic ones, especially from the 18th century onwards, when European civilisation overtook the Indian and Chinese one in development and conquered the whole world. But for the author, solitary sleeping is also the cause of insecure attachment relationship with their mothers.

    Solitary sleeping leads to stronger insecurity in childhood, which in turn reinforces the child's ability to care for him/herself, think independently and act without the help of others. Although tougher on children, this approach has the benefit to create stronger adults. The drawback is that children who are too weak psychologically to put up with this detached upbringing may end up with psychological disorders like schizophrenia, psychosis or depression, all vastly more common in Western cultures than in the rest of the world.

    While bed-sharing may be convenient for breastfeeding mothers, it shouldn't be necessary once the baby has been weaned. It seems obvious to me that the longer a child is used to sleep with the reassuring presence of adults the more insecure, fearful and socially dependent he/she will become as an adult. Co-sleeping with parents after 5 years old is certainly detrimental to one's strength of character.

    In short, not enough parental presence will lead to psychological duress and relationship problems for the child, notably trust issues. But too much co-sleeping leads to weak, dependent and insecure personalities.

    Personally I would be afraid to keep a baby in an Western-style bed for two reasons: 1) risk of smothering the baby in one's sleep, and 2) risk of the baby falling from the bed. Japanese futon being on the floor they avert the second problem. This is true in most non-Western cultures, where people usually sleep at floor level. It might be that elevated Western beds required baby cribs with bars to prevent accidents. Whether the baby sleeps in the same bed as the parent or just in the same room, at a reassuring proximity, I think it doesn't make much difference at the psychological level.

    The ideal solution may be bed-sharing or room-sharing until 6 months or 1 year of age, then solitary sleeping in the child's own room to form his sense of individualism and strengthen the character against the fear of dark and loneliness.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Jun 4, 2010 at 04:48.

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  4. #4
    I jump to conclusions mad pierrot's Avatar
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    Interesting replies!

    It seems there has been quite a bit of research done in this area. Personally, I'm inclined to agree with the same common points Gya and Maciamo pointed out, although I hesitate to draw sweeping conclusion across culture. I might argue that the suspect insecurity in Japanese is a result of a combination of factors, the baby-handling methods only being one of many.

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