Beliefs about the appropriate age for initiating toilet training: are there racial and socioeconomic differences?

J Pediatr. 2006 Aug;149(2):165-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2006.03.004.


Objective: To examine racial and socioeconomic differences in parental beliefs about the appropriate age at which to initiate toilet training.

Study design: A cross-sectional survey of 779 parents visiting child health providers in 3 clinical sites in Washington, DC and the surrounding metropolitan area completed a self-report survey. The main outcome variable was parental beliefs about the appropriate age at which to initiate toilet training. Using multiple linear regression, differences in beliefs were assessed in relation to race, family income, parental education, parental age, and age of the oldest and youngest children.

Results: Among respondents, parents felt that the average age at which toilet training should be initiated was 20.6 months (+/-7.6 months), with a range of 6 to 48 months. Caucasian parents believed that toilet training should be initiated at a significantly later age (25.4 months) compared with both African-American parents (18.2 months) and parents of other races (19.4 months). In the multiple regression model, factors predicting belief in when to initiate toilet training were Caucasian race and higher income.

Conclusions: Race and income were independent predictors of belief in age at which to initiate toilet training. More research is needed to determine what factors contribute to toilet training practices in diverse populations.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude / ethnology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture*
  • District of Columbia
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Toilet Training*