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bedsharing China research

Bedsharing in China

As expected, routine bed sharing in Chinese school-aged children is very prevalent, with 56 percent in 7-year-olds and 7 percent in 11- to 13-year-olds. Although bed sharing is an accepted practice in many Asian countries, we do not know if these Chinese numbers would apply throughout Asia. However, this rate is expected to be markedly higher than that found in Western children. A recent United States national survey conducted between 1993 and 2000 indicated that only 9.2% of infants usually share a bed with their parents. … [View source ]

for footnotes (removed here) and full text, see Xianchen Liu MD, PhD; Lianqi Liu MD2, Ruzhan Wang MD2, "Bed Sharing, Sleep Habits, and Sleep Problems Among Chinese School-Aged Children", SLEEP, Vol. 26, No. 7, 2003, pp. 839-844. (researchers from the Department of Family and Human Development and Program for Prevention Research, Arizona State University, and Shandong Mental Health Center, Jinan, People’s Republic of China)

"In Western countries, most child-health professionals emphasize the hazards of bed sharing, such as impeding the development of autonomy and independence, fostering dependence on parents, being sexually aroused, increasing risk for sleep problems, and interfering with parents' sexuality and intimacy.  In contrast, Asian childrearing practices stress the development of interdependence, conformity, and family closeness. In a study of bed sharing in Korean children, for example, Yang and Hahn found that 73.5 percent of mothers approved of bed sharing between 3 and 6 years of age. The main reasons for bed sharing were "to look after the child while sleeping" and "child too young to sleep alone." Thus, cultural beliefs and childrearing practices may account for a large proportion of bed sharing among Chinese children. ...

The finding that younger children are more likely to share a bed with their parents is consistent with Yang and Hahn's study of Korean children, possibly due to the Asian mothers' belief that children are too young to sleep alone and bed sharing is a part of the fabric of the close-knit relationships of family members. Crowded housing was the second strongest predictor of bed sharing. This finding is consistent with those observed in Asian children and Western children. In urban residences of China, crowded housing is very common and many families with young children may have only 1 bedroom. In this sample, more than 60 percent of families owned a living space less than 20 square meters per person, and 35 percent had less than 15 square meters. ...

Another potential factor that may contribute to higher rates of bed sharing among Chinese families should not be ignored: the only child in the family. Almost all of the families in urban China have only 1 child due to family-planning policy. An only child is frequently regarded as "a little emperor" or "a little sun," namely a spoiled or overprotected child. Only children in China are described as over dependent, egocentric, less cooperative, timid, and unadjusted. These characteristics may increase the likelihood of children sharing beds with their parents. However, this hypothesis cannot be examined in the current study because almost all of the children in the sample (98%) are only children.

... The association between bed sharing and sleep anxiety and daytime sleepiness may be due to shared variance of information. However, this could not explain why most of the other sleep problems were not associated with bed sharing. Ideally, a combination of parental and child reports would provide a better picture of the child's sleep behaviors because children report more sleep problems than do their parents. In addition, the present findings were cross sectional and retrospective. We could not conclude that there were causal relationships between bed sharing and sleep anxiety and daytime sleepiness. For example, the association between bed sharing and sleep anxiety has 3 possible explanations: bed sharing causes sleep anxiety; sleep anxiety increases the likelihood of bed sharing; and the association may be caused by a third confounding factor (eg, child's physical diseases) and security during the night.

... In our sample, 35 percent of fathers and 18 percent of mothers graduated from college; the level of the parents' education in this sample was higher than that of the general population of urban China. The higher level of the parents' education indicates better SES (Socio Economic Status) and possibly better living conditions, which are associated with a decreased likelihood for bed sharing and sleep problems. Thus, the prevalence of bed sharing and sleep problems may be underestimated in this study.


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