Infants with persistent crying / sleeping / feeding problems more likely to have behaviour problems in childhood

Infants who have problems with persistent crying, sleeping and/or feeding – known as regulatory problems – are far more likely to become children with significant behavioural problems, reveals research published ahead of print in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK, University of Basel in Switzerland, and the University of Bochum in Germany set out to find the nature and strength of any link between regulatory problems in early infancy and childhood behavioural problems.

Around 20% of all infants show symptoms of excessive crying, sleeping difficulties and/or feeding problems in their first year of life and this can lead to disruption for families and costs for health services.

Previous research has suggested these regulatory problems can have an adverse effect on behavioural or cognitive development later in childhood, but findings have been inconclusive.

They carried out an analysis of 22 studies from 1987 to 2006 that had looked at this possible association and which had involved, collectively, 16,848 children, of which 1,935 children with regulatory problems were tested.

Of the 22 studies, 10 studies reported on consequences of excessive crying, four on sleeping problems, three on feeding problems, and five studies on multiple regulatory problems.