The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Potential influences of infant sleeping arrangement (social or solitary) in the developmental trajectories and life history strategy of adults

JAMES J. MCKENNA.

Anthropology, University of Notre Dame

Friday 10:00-10:15, Galleria South Add to calendar

Our previous cross-sectional studies of breastfeeding solitary and co-sleeping mother-infant pairs revealed significant differences including for co-sleeping dyads more frequent breastfeeds, enhanced mutual sensitivities, communication, face-to-face body orientations, and sleep stage synchronicity. Cross-cultural and cross-species data, and understandings derived from evolutionary models suggest that mother-infant co-sleeping is the species-wide norm, although due to recent historical and social factors in the US and most European societies infants sleeping in islation became common. Although long-term empirical studies are necessary to fully elucidate whether or if solitary sleep and co-sleeping influence differential developmental trajectories during infancy, indirect evidence suggests that young children who co-sleep are perceived by their teachers to exhibit better comportment, and may enjoy stronger attachments, exhibit more control over their emotions. Late teens who coslept as children report more comfort with their gender identities and with physical intimacy, while older adults describe themselves as optimistic and appear less likely to accept an uncritical “collectivist” cultural mentality. Research elsewhere has shown that some of these factors influence adult reproductive and relational behaviors that comprise components of life history strategy, such as attachment profiles with offspring and attendant parenting commitments, the likelihood of promiscuity, divorce, and psychological resilience. As a consequence, it is conjectured that familial sleeping arrangements during infantcy and the effects thereof are one example of the ways in which the culturally constructed social milieus can influence developmental trajectories with implications for reproductive behavior and life history strategy in adulthood, independent of energetic status.

Research Supported by National Insitiutes of Child Health and Human Development (RO1 Grants)

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