Behaviour links found to infant difficulties

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Babies who show excessive crying and difficulties in sleeping and feeding in their first year are more likely to develop significant behavioural problems as they get older, a new study suggests.

A team of researchers from universities in the UK, Germany and Switzerland carried out an analysis of 22 studies from 1987 to 2007, which looked at possible associations between children who experience regulatory problems and those who develop behavioural problems such as anxiety, aggressive behaviour and ADHD later in life.

The authors refer to regulatory problems as intense, unsoothable crying for no apparent reason, sleeping problems such as difficulties settling at bedtime or failure to sleep through the night, and food refusal, little appetite or swallowing problems. They say approximately 20 per cent of all infants show these symptoms in their first year.

The most common developments found among children with regulatory problems were disruptive behaviour, temper tantrums and ADHD. A child whose symptoms were accompanied by negative family circumstances was most predicative of behavioural problems.

Professor Silvia Schneider from the University of Bochum in Germany said, 'The evidence suggests that those with persisting regulatory problems in families with other problems may require early interventions to minimise or prevent the long-term consequences of infant regulatory problems.

'Our findings highlight the need for follow-up studies of regulatory disturbed infants with reliable assessments of crying, sleeping, or feeding problems.'

FURTHER INFORMATION

'Associations between problems with crying, sleeping and/or feeding in infancy and long-term behavioural outcomes in childhood: a meta analysis' is published online in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

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