Oldbury, Sarah and Adams, Karen (2015) The impact of infant crying on the parent-infant relationship. Community Practitioner, 88 (3). pp. 29-34. ISSN 1462-2815

Infant-crying is distressing for parents, evoking a range of difficult feelings. Infants who cry often may be perceived as difficult by their parents, with negative effects on bonding and attachment. Infant-crying as a stimulus for child-abuse is also highlighted, as parents’ feelings of frustration may provoke harmful responses towards the child.
A non-exhaustive literature review was conducted, exploring the impact of infant-crying on parents, using CASP tools to support the analysis of twenty qualitative and quantitative studies, published between 2003 and 2013. This paper reports the findings of the review, with a specific focus on the effects of infant crying on the parent-infant relationship.
The findings suggest parents may experience anxiety, depression, helplessness, anger and frustration in response to infant-crying. Negative effects on bonding and parental perception of the baby are identified. Parents may also experience thoughts of harming their baby, and subsequent feelings of guilt and shame.
Universal interventions to help parents prepare for parenthood, and to respond positively to crying are strongly recommended. Opportunities for parents to discuss their feelings towards their infant should be maximised, reducing the impact of infant-crying on bonding and attachment. Parents should be empowered to develop strategies and sources of support to help them cope. Early identification of parents experiencing difficulties in coping with infant-crying is essential, and risk in relation to potential abuse must be assessed. Health visitors have a key role in providing such support.

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