Dangers of crying it out, lifetime of harm

Study by professor Darcia Narvaez of Notre Dame says the method is akin to neglect

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Study by professor Darcia Narvaez of Notre Dame says the method is akin to neglect

It seems that ‘Crying it Out’ is dangerous after all.

Image via Wiki Commons

The controversial method used by some parents to teach their children independence and self-soothing can actually cause long-term problems such as anxiety, relationship problems and damage to intellect, according to a study published by Psychology Today. “We know now that leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated person who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation,” the study says.

University professor at Notre Dame and author of the study, Darcia Narvaez, PhD, writes that this method not only causes neurons in the baby’s brain to die, it also creates dependence and stress disorders in adult life, such as irritable bowel syndrome and trust issues.

Critics claim that it is normal for a baby to cry, but Dr. Narvaez explains, “When babies display discomfort, it signals that a need is not getting met, a need of their rapidly growing systems.” She adds that extensive crying,  “shows the lack of experience, knowledge and/or support of the baby’s caregivers.”


This is not the first time a commonplace child rearing method has been overturned. In a brochure distributed in the 20’s by the government stated that “mothering meant holding the baby quietly, in tranquility-inducing positions” and that “the mother should stop immediately if her arms feel tired” because “the baby is never to inconvenience the adult.”  Babies older than six months “should be taught to sit silently in the crib; otherwise, he might need to be constantly watched and entertained by the mother, a serious waste of time.”

Even the developer of the Cry it Out method never intended for parents to completely ignore their children. Dr. Richard Ferber explains, “I’ve always believed that there are many solutions to sleep problems, and that every family and every child is unique,” He continues, “People want one easy solution, but there’s no such thing. I never encouraged parents to let their babies cry it out, but one of the many treatment styles I described in my book is gradual extinction, where you delay your response time to your baby’s wakings. I went to great pains in the second edition to clarify that that treatment is not appropriate for every sleep issue, of which there are many.”

Dr. Narvaez calls behavioralists who advocate this method of parenting ignorant. She states that, “A deep sense of insecurity is likely to stay with them the rest of life.”

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  • Concerned nother

    “It seems that ‘Crying it Out’ is dangerous after all.”

    No, it isn’t. Dr. Darcia Narvaez isn’t quoting any new research; she’s making the usual (and invalid) comaprison of babies crying during sleep-training with studies done on severely neglected and abused children. Actual studies done on sleep-training have shown no such detriemntal effects, quite the opposite actually. It’s amazing how much better mothers and babies feel when they’re getting enough sleep. And there are several preofessionals in the comments ripping her a new one about her distortion of facts. Which, incidentally, is a trend with Dr. Narvaez.

  • An equally concerned mother

    Why is it that proponents of Controlled Crying always use the same old argument that crying is beneficial to mother and baby as they both feel better when enough sleep has been had. The inference here is that parents must either use Controlled Crying (or the euphenism ‘Sleep Training’) to get a better night’s sleep or live with being sleep deprived. This is certainly not the case, parents who do not believe Controlled Crying is a safe method of improving sleep quality can use other strategies to help their babies sleep, these strategies may take a longer period of time to take effect but perhaps that is because the baby is actually learning good sleep habits, not giving up on the very people they trust to nuture and care for them when they are left crying for any length of time. I say length of time because I am yet to see any consistency in the length of time that a baby is advised to cry in the multitude of sources that advise the use of Controlled Crying. This suggests to me that nobody knows what the real risk is.

  • Artug

    Just as Elizabeth Pantley says in her book  “It’s either  time or tears” So for those who don’t have the time and patience for their own offspring then CIO might serve a purpose for the convinience of the parents. And then it comes down to how you feel sitting and doing nothing while your helpless baby is crying in a dark room and what message are you sending her? What’s going through extinction here is her trust in you. Yes in the end babies will stop crying since no point and there’s no “mother”to respond. It’s so sad that we even need research to prove something that’s SO WRONG!

  • A concerned scientist

    A blog entry is not a “study”, and Psychology Today is not a scientific journal.