Objectives. Significant cultural variations exist in sleep practices for young children, including bedtime rituals and routines, soothing techniques, and cosleeping. This study examined parenting styles at bedtime and sleep behavior in a group of German infants. The results are compared with sleep practices of other western European countries.

Participants. German parents of 50 boys and 50 girls 6 to 30 months old.

Method. Parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the sleep behavior of their child. Personal interviews with the parents were conducted to augment the survey results; in selected cases, bedtime routines were filmed.

Results. The infants in this sample largely slept in their own bed in a separate room. Bedtime rituals were common and in general characterized by parents maintaining behavioral distance from the infants during the bedtime routine. However, parenting style was likely to become more “proximal” (close) in response to bedtime refusal and nocturnal infant crying. A majority of parents (79%) used lullabies as part of the bedtime ritual, and the use of a sleep aid was very common (80%).

Conclusion. As is the case with most cultures, German bedtime parenting practices tend to reflect parenting values and beliefs associated with their specific culture. The parenting style at bedtime in this group of infants in general seemed less rigid and less distancing than bedtime rituals typically described in other northern European countries and may represent more of a synthesis of parenting styles across various Western cultures.

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