Pattishall Research Lecture to address bedtime and nighttime parenting

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Douglas M. Teti, professor of human development and family studies, psychology, and pediatrics and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State, will present the 2016 Pattishall Research Lecture.

The lecture, titled "Project SIESTA: A study of bedtime and nighttime parenting, family functioning, and infant-parent sleep," will be given at 4 p.m. April 26 in the Bennett Pierce Living Center, 110 Henderson Building on the University Park campus. A reception will be held prior to the remarks at 3:30 p.m. in the same location.

The event, sponsored by the College of Health and Human Development, is free and open to the public.

“My research aims to understand the role of family dynamics and parenting as it relates to infant development,” Teti said.

One dynamic that Teti studies is co-sleeping and persistent co-sleeping. Co-sleeping refers to parents and children sleeping in the same room, either in the same bed or in separate beds. Persistent co-sleeping refers to room- and bed-sharing beyond the baby’s age of 6 months.

“In a recent study, my colleagues and I found that persistent co-sleeping was associated with higher levels of marital stress, parenting stress and poorer parenting at bedtime,” Teti said. He added, however, that it was unclear whether persistent co-sleeping was causing elevated family stress, or was a marker of family stress. He also indicated that links between persistent co-sleeping and heightened family stress may be a finding that is particular to cultures in which persistent co-sleeping is not the norm.

Teti’s study demonstrated that it was parenting behavior at bedtime, including the quality of parenting, the emotional availability of the parent, and specific bedtime practices, that helped predict sleep in the infant and the quality of the infant’s attachment to the mother. Co-sleeping and other infant sleep arrangements were not predictive of infant sleep quality or quality of infant attachment, Teti said.

“Co-sleeping is fine, especially in the early months of life, as it makes nursing more convenient and the baby more accessible,” Teti said. “If parents decide to co-sleep after the baby is 6 months of age, it’s important to make sure both partners are in agreement and are maintaining a healthy relationship as a couple.”

Teti is a developmental scientist whose broader program of research focuses on parenting competence and parenting at risk. His research scholarship, in the form of publications, external funding, and mentoring of future researchers, has made significant inroads toward understanding bi-directional associations between parenting and child functioning.

The Pattishall Research Lecture is delivered each year by the most recent recipient of the Pattishall Outstanding Research Achievement Award, which honors a senior faculty member who has made outstanding research contributions to the field across a major portion of his or her career. The award was established by the late Evan Pattishall, who served as dean of the former College of Human Development, and his wife, Helen.

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Last Updated April 04, 2016