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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The cultural model for infants’ and children’s sleeping arrangements familiar to most sleep researchers is highly unusual in global perspective, and it is a relatively recent addition to the human scene. This has limited our understanding. A broader examination reveals that, for example, the pattern of associations between co-sleeping during infancy and other variables (such as sleep problems) is culturally constructed—although commonly found, or assumed, in US and other Western samples, it is not generally found where co-sleeping is normative. We know little, however, about how sleep itself, including its internal architecture, is influenced by the developmental niche. The available evidence suggests that the development of sleep, like that of all biologically driven, universal behaviors, is culturally regulated, and therefore it shows interesting and important variation across cultural and ecological environments.

Keywords: culture, co-sleeping, customary practices, developmental niche, long-term effects, parental ethnotheories, SIDS, sleep architecture, sleep problems

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