Cultural Acceptance of Co-Sleeping
Though parents sleeping with their young children is a popular practice in some areas of the world, it is open to much debate. This is called co-sleeping. Most people agree that it is cute for toddlers to cuddle up next to their parents when they have fears or trouble sleeping. Small children may run for shelter beneath their parents’ sheets during a thunderstorm. The need for physical touch in parental bonding is well documented. 
For the protection of their delicate bodies, infants should sleep alone in a crib. This is often a difficult transition from the womb.
In many cultures, co-sleeping is the norm until children are weaned. Some families continue long after weaning. Japanese parents (or grandparents) frequently sleep in proximity with their children until they are teenagers. Referring to this arrangement as a river—the mother is one bank, the father another, and the child sleeping between them is the water. 
Co-sleeping in Sweden is a normal family activity. This differs from the other societies studied. Swedish children often co-sleep with both their parents until school age. Then more boys than girls stop the practice.  With variance, parents around the world often bathe boys with girls until the age of 3 or 4. [4,5]
Prevent Awkward Co-Sleeping Situations
Co-sleeping often has no motive beyond socioeconomic necessity. Families that grow unexpectedly can exceed the number of available bedrooms. It is not as much an issue if there are separate rooms for boys and girls. Sometimes a girl that outgrows a crib may share a bunk bed with an older brother. (Do not place an infant or toddler high above the floor.) It is all quite innocent at first, but most parents recognize the need to eventually separate genders.
Your immediate family can include a mom and dad with children in a large house or a single parent in a one-room apartment. When finances permit, parents try to into larger accommodations to match the size of their family. Sometimes cousins who visit need a place to stay. The pandemic has more families sharing cramped quarters with relatives. Parents have tough decisions to make. Will you err on the side of caution?
Protect Children From Incest
One thing a maturing young man discovers is that functioning testicles are in a constant state of motion. This helps regulate the temperature of sperm. Also, during the night, a male can have as many as five erections that last up to 20 or 30 minutes each. This is called nocturnal penile tumescence—sometimes accompanied by nocturnal emissions.  Less commonly discussed are nocturnal clitoral erections among females.  Most go unnoticed because of sleeping. But some can awaken a child. A maturing boy lying next to a sister or parent in this state can be confusing, traumatizing, or lead to serious questions and circumstances.
Human Reproduction Anatomy Posters
Bed sharing among siblings is a common practice not associated with any impaired child mental health until after the age of six years. By the time a child reaches puberty (ages 6,8–14), he or she should have the talk about human reproduction.  It is wise for boys and girls to have separate rooms as their bodies mature. Teens sharing beds with adults or relatives of the opposite sex is inappropriate in many societies. Having opposite genders sleep head to toe in the same bed is not a foolproof strategy.
Rarely a one-time offense, incest is a notoriously underreported crime.  The prevalence of cases varies between 5% and 62% according to culture, the source of the report, and geographic location. African-American women are 1.75 times more likely than White women to have experienced child sexual abuse.
Results of a demographic questionnaire were tabulated. Of 159 girls (mean age 10), Latinas were found to have a greater number of sexually abusive episodes and waited longer to disclose their abuse. Caucasian girls were more likely to have experienced vaginal penetration. Among the individual types of incest, father-daughter incest is most common, followed by the other types like brother-sister, sister-sister, and mother-son incest. The World Health Organization classifies this problem as a silent health emergency. [10–14]
Children learn how to show proper affection from the nurturing of parents and siblings. Recognize the need for children to have their own space—at least by gender as they grow up. At some point, sleeping together in one bed outgrows its innocence.
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- Barry ES. Co-sleeping as a proximal context for infant development: The importance of physical touch. Infant Behav Dev. 2019 Nov;57:101385. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2019.101385. Epub 2019 Oct 23. PMID: 31655427.
- Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent's Guide To Cosleeping by James J.McKenna (2007). Platypus Press.
- Welles-Nystrom B. Co-sleeping as a window into Swedish culture: considerations of gender and health care. Scand J Caring Sci. 2005 Dec;19(4):354-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2005.00358.x. PMID: 16324059.
- Santos IS, Barros AJ, Barros FC, Munhoz TN, Da Silva BDP, Matijasevich A. Mother-child bed-sharing trajectories and psychiatric disorders at the age of 6 years. J Affect Disord. 2017;208:163-169. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.054
- Rath, F. H., Jr., & Okum, M. E. (1995). Parents and children sleeping together: Cosleeping prevalence and concerns. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 65(3), 411–418. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0079654
- Health Check: why men wake up with erections. theconversation.com
- Women's vaginal responses during REM sleep. tandfonline.com
- When Should Puberty Start in Girls and Boys? verywellfamily.com
- Incest legal definition. thefreedictionary.com
- Ramifications of Incest. psychiatrictimes.com
- Generally, inbreeding is more common in, the southeast region of the U.S. and more rural states. Approximately 70% of inbred families live in desolate areas. worldpopulationreview.com
- Evaluation of social and demographic characteristics of incest cases in a university hospital in Turkey. 2014, nih.gov
- Maryann Amodeo; Margaret L. Griffin; Irene R. Fassler; Cassandra M. Clay; Michael A. Ellis. Childhood Sexual Abuse Among Black Women and White Women From Two-Parent Families. Child Maltreatment Volume:11 Issue:3 Dated:August 2006 Pages:237-246
- Shaw JA, Lewis JE, Loeb A, Rosado J, Rodriguez RA. A comparison of Hispanic and African-American sexually abused girls and their families. Child Abuse Negl. 2001 Oct;25(10):1363-79. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(01)00272-1. PMID: 11720384.
- Main photo by Ketut Subiyanto of Pexels.
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