Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Attachment behavior, Parenting, Infants-Sleep, Crying in infants, Object relations (Psychoanalysis), Caregivers, Attachment, Sleep training, Cry it out, Caregiver response, Infant crying, Theoretical


How to respond to infant sleep-related crying is a ripe debate in much of the current parenting literature. This theoretical thesis explores how certain caregiver responses affect infants' psychological development. Particular attention is paid to the popular sleep-training technique—letting a baby "Cry It Out"—as there is an alarming lack of consideration within empirical and theoretical literature of the psychological impact of this parenting strategy on an infant. This thesis begins with an overview of current empirical research on infant sleep and crying behavior, and proceeds to include an in-depth look at attachment and object relations (mostly Winnicottian) theories, specifically in respect to how caregiver and infant negotiate sleep, infant crying, the process of separation, and the intrapsychic development of self and other. Intersubjective theory is integrated into much of the discussion, as it brings the subjectivity of the caregiver into view, which is really at the core of parenting decisions. At the end of the thesis, there is a broader consideration of the complex impact of the sociocultural surround on parenting decisions, as well as how the perspectives proposed within the thesis apply to clinical practice. This thesis does not ultimately provide an answer to the question of whether it is advisable to let an infant cry it out. Instead, it highlights the importance of an attuned, enduring, and appropriately responsive caregiver in the facilitation of an infant's psychological development, and how that is "good enough."




iii, 100 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 91-100)