Please read the following summary of several view points regarding whether or not a baby should be allowed to “cry it out” when he or she is upset (which often happens when one puts a baby down to sleep, by the way).

Please read the following summary of several view points regarding whether or not a baby should be allowed to “cry it out” when he or she is upset (which often happens when one puts a baby down to sleep, by the way).   After reading about the different perspectives, think about your view and what you have done with your child(ren) or what you think you would likely do with your child(ren) if you were to have one (or more).  Then, ask some parents that you know about their perspectives.  Once you have done this, post what you found out from the folks you spoke with and which path you think you would likely try (or have tried) first if you were to have kids (or do have them) and why.

Background:

Many developmentalists believe that the discomfort caused by listening to a baby cry is an adaptive response that assures the helpless baby will get attention from an adult.  However, even the experts disagree on how quickly parents or caregivers should respond to a crying baby.  A recent visit to the websitewww.parentsoup.com produced the following question from a frantic new parent: Which is better for my baby, Ferberization or the attachment theory?  These are modern incarnations of an old dilemma.  Ferberization is based on the views of Dr. Richard Ferber in his book Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problemsand advocates letting babies cry themselves to sleep.  Attachment theory argues that babies cry for adaptive reasons and that letting them cry stunts their social and emotional development.

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Ferberization:  Modern-Day Behaviorism

The first psychologist to advise new parents on whether to allow babies to cry or not was John B. Watson.  Watson argued that when parents respond each time their baby cries, they are rewarding the crying and increasing its happening.  In other words, they are spoiling their children.  To avoid this, Watson advises, treat them:

…as though they were young adults….Let your behavior always be objective and kindly firm. Never hug or kiss them, never let them sit on your lap….Shake hands with them in the morning….In a week’s time, you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective…[yet] kindly.  You will be utterly ashamed at the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling [your child] (1928, 81–82).

Interestingly, a few years later his wife, Rosalie Rayner Watson, wrote the following in Children magazine (the precursor to today’s Parents):

One grave reason why I am a very bad mother, behaviorally speaking, is because I am still somewhat on the side of the children.  I am afraid the scientists tackled me too late in life to wholly recondition me.  I cannot restrain my affection for the children completely.  The respect in which I am the very worst behaviorist is because I too want to break all rules once in awhile (cited in Parents, August, 1996, p. 50).

By the 1940s, Dr. Spock (in his classic Baby and Child Care) was dispensing very similar advice: when babies are fussy and won’t sleep, let them cry it out until they fall asleep.  Fifty years later, Dr. Richard Ferber, head of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston, wrote a best-selling book called Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.  After studying babies’ sleep habits for years, Ferber says that most healthy babies are sleeping through the night by age 3 months.  Babies need to learn that if they cry at night parents will not (a) take them out of the crib, (b) feed them, or (c) play with them.  Also, says Ferber, if a baby learns to fall asleep only while being held, rocked, or fed, she’ll insist on those conditions being met night after night.  While it’s normal for babies to wake during the night, Ferber continues, it is knowing how to go back to sleep that is the problem.  Instead, advises Ferber, teach her to sleep on her own.  Give the baby a pat (not a cuddle) and leave the room.  If the crying continues, parents should return and calmly reassure the child.  Ferber suggests increasing the intervals between returning to the child’s room by 5 minutes at first, then 10, then 15.  Within a week, claims Ferber, the child will be trained to fall asleep on her own.

Many developmentalists disagree with the behaviorist view.  John Bowlby(1989) argued that babies’ cries are preprogrammed distress signals that bring caregivers to the baby.  The caregivers, too, are programmed to respond to babies’ cries.  The adaptive significance of crying ensures that:

  • the infant’s basic needs will be met;
  • a sense of trust in others will develop; and
  • the infant will have sufficient contact with other human beings to form social and emotional attachments.

Mary Ainsworth believes that you cannot respond too much to an infant’s crying in the first year.  She found that mothers who responded quickly to their infants when they cried at age 3 months had infants who cried less later (Bell &Ainsworth, 1972).  Other researchers have found that quick, soothing responses to infant’s crying increased subsequent crying (Gewirtz, 1977)

Citing Guidelines:

You do NOT need to cite from the material above other than to say who you are talking about. For example, “I agree with Bowlby…”  Of course, if you go elsewhere for material, you must cite that in-text and at the end of your work in APA style like usual.  (I don’t expect or encourage you to go beyond what is here, but if you do, cite.)

Grading Notes:

Your postings must include the use of proper grammar, punctuation, and complete sentences.  Please organize paragraphs and ideas carefully.  Put a space between paragraphs.  Please also be certain you write enough to full develop your thoughts.  This assignment will take several paragraphs to complete well.

 

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