Here’s a fascinating research project coming out of Norway, in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health, focused on the cognitive consequences of prolonged crying in young babies. As you’ll see, the conclusions very much bear out what we attachment parenting advocates have been evangelizing for years:
Research on long term cognitive development in children with prolonged crying.
BACKGROUND: Long term studies of cognitive development and colic have not differentiated between typical colic and prolonged crying.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether colic and excessive crying that persists beyond 3 months is associated with adverse cognitive development.
DESIGN: Prospective cohort study. A sample of 561 women was enrolled in the second trimester of pregnancy. Colic and prolonged crying were based on crying behaviour assessed at 6 and 13 weeks. Children’s intelligence, motor abilities, and behaviour were measured at 5 years (n = 327). Known risk factors for cognitive impairment were ascertained prenatally, after birth, at 6 and 13 weeks, at 6, 9, and 13 months, and at 5 years of age.
RESULTS: Children with prolonged crying (but not those with colic only) had an adjusted mean IQ that was 9 points lower than the control group. Their performance and verbal IQ scores were 9.2 and 6.7 points lower than the control group, respectively. The prolonged crying group also had significantly poorer fine motor abilities compared with the control group. Colic had no effect on cognitive development.
CONCLUSIONS: Excessive, uncontrolled crying that persists beyond 3 months of age in infants without other signs of neurological damage may be a marker for cognitive deficits during childhood. Such infants need to be examined and followed up more intensively.
This should be pretty convincing data, with a research group of 327 babies, if you’re still unsure about whether you should let your baby “cry it out” or if you’re thinking of trying any of the progressive desensitization sleeping methods promoted by various so-called experts.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out that a family bed — or at least a crib in the same room as the parents — further minimizes excessive crying too, with the positive long-term outcome indicated by this research.
If I may say so, it’s nice to find that research bears out what we attachment parents have been preaching for years…