Parental Use of "Cry Out" in a Community Sample During the First Year of Infant Life

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2020 Jun/Jul;41(5):379-387. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000791.


Objective: The primary objective was to identify the characteristics of parents and infants and parenting practices associated with delayed responsiveness to infant crying during the first year of infant life. A secondary objective was to evaluate, in a subsample of maternal-infant pairs, the associations between delayed responsiveness to infant crying and observational measures of maternal-infant interaction and infant-maternal attachment.

Method: This is a secondary analysis of the data from a community sample of pregnant women recruited to the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition study. Mothers completed questionnaires during the first year of infant life (n = 1826), and a convenience subsample of maternal-infant pairs (n = 137) participated in laboratory assessments of maternal-infant interaction at 6 months of age and infant-maternal attachment at 20 months.

Results: Parental use of "cry out" as a strategy to deal with a crying infant was associated with parental characteristics (being white and having a relatively higher income), infant characteristics (higher problematic behavior at 3 months and reduced problematic behavior at 12 months), sleep ecology (infants sleeping alone), and parental soothing strategies (less frequently taking the infant into the parent's bed, cuddling, or carrying the crying infant). Cry out was not associated with observational measures of maternal sensitivity or infant-maternal attachment.

Conclusion: When used selectively and in response to the specific needs and characteristics of the infant, delayed responsiveness may reduce problematic behavior and does not harm the infant's socioemotional development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alberta
  • Crying / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / psychology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Problem Behavior / psychology*

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