Parents’ Values Shape Parenting Practices and Beliefs that Impact Infant Sleep

This study asked whether parents’ values impacted parenting expectations related to infant sleep. 

Sarah Berger, Natalie Barnett, Shambhavi Thakur

Presented at World Sleep Congress, Rome, 2022


Parents’ expectations about development influence their parenting practices, which, in turn, shape child development. For example, expectations about motor development predict when infants achieve key motor milestones, like sitting or walking (Adolph, et al., 2010; Hopkins & Westra, 1989). Parents’ expectations about sleep are stronger predictors of childhood sleep problems than child factors (Johnson & McMahon, 2008). Beliefs that are not specifically child-related also influence parents’ decisions. For example, parents’ values shape opportunities for preschoolers’ play (Horger, et al. 2017) and how parents work together to manage parenting responsibilities (Pisauro, et al., 2021). This study asked whether parents’ values impacted parenting expectations related to infant sleep. 

1863 parents (1425 mothers) from 41 countries with a child 3- to 18-months old (mean=8.83 mos) participated in an online survey. Criteria for participation was using Nanit, a home video baby monitoring system that uses computer vision technology to calculate nightly summary sleep characteristics (e.g., quality of night sleep, parent visits, night wakings). 

The survey comprised the maternal cognitions about infant sleep questionnaire (MCISQ; Morrell, 1999) with 4 subscales on beliefs about setting limits around infants’sleep, anger at infants’ demands related to sleep, doubts about parenting competence, and concerns about infant feeding during the night; and the portrait values questionnaire (PVQ; Schwartz, 1992) with 10 subscales related to personal vs. social foci and openness to change vs. tradition

Pearson correlations showed that the higher parents’scores on the MCISQ subscales (more concerns about setting limits, more doubts about parenting competence, angrier about infants’ demands, more concerns about infant feeding), the worse the quality of infants’ night sleep, the greater the frequency of parent visits, and the more infant night wakings (all p’s . 001). A cluster analysis of the value subscales revealed 4 profiles: weak endorsement of growth (n=429), resistance to change (n=520), openness to change (n=484), and strong endorsement of growth (n=446). A series of 2 (parent) x 4 (PVQ profile) ANOVAs on infants’sleep characteristics and the MCISQ subscales revealed that infants of parents who were resistant to change (Profile 2) took more time to fall asleep than infants of parents who were open to change (Profile 3). Moreover, parents open to change (Profile 3) were significantly less likely to be concerned about setting sleep-related limits; have doubts about sleep-related parenting abilities, and have concerns related to feeding during the night. Parents with a weak endorsement of growth (Profile 1) reported that they were significantly angrier about sleep-related demands than the other profiles. In addition, mothers had significantly more concerns about setting limits, doubts about parenting competence, and concerns about safety than fathers and fathers were significantly angrier about infants’sleep-related demands than were mothers.

This study may be the first to link value systems with parenting practices that infant development. Individuals who value personal growth may approach learning to parent with less anxiety and stress than those who resist change. This may have implications for parents’ value systems on the development of infant sleep. 


Parents' Values Shape Parenting Practices and Beliefes that Impact Infant Sleep


About the researchers

The authors include Sarah Berger, Natalie Barnett, and Shambhavi Thakur

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  • Dr. Sarah Berger is a Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She received her PhD from New York University. Dr. Berger was an American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Research Fellow and a Fulbright Research Scholar. Dr. Berger studies the interaction between cognitive and motor development in infancy, particularly response inhibition and its implications for the allocation of attention in very young children. A line of National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded work, in collaboration with Dr. Anat Scher, has been the first to study the impact of sleep on motor problem solving in infancy.

  • Shambhavi Thakur serves as Clinical Research Data Analyst at Nanit. She holds a Masters degree in Health Informatics and Life Sciences. She oversees the research collaborations with various universities and analyzes sleep data for internal as well as external studies.

  • Dr. Natalie Barnett serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.


Adolph, K. E., Karasik, B. L., Tamis-Lemonda, S. C., & Bornstein, M. (2010). Motor skills. Handbook of cultural developmental science. Handbook of cultural developmental science, 61- 88. 

Hopkins, B., & Westra, T. (1989). Maternal expectations of their infants ‘development: some cultural differences. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 31(3), 384-390. 

Horger, M. N., Berger, S. E., Orr, E., & Benish-Weisman, M. (May, 2017). The relation between culture, parental values, and young children’s play. Poster presented at the 29th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Boston, MA. 

Johnson, N., & McMahon, C. (2008). Preschoolers’ sleep behaviour: associations with parental hardiness, sleep‐related cognitions and bedtime interactions. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(7), 765-773. 

Morrell, J. M. (1999). The role of maternal cognitions in infant sleep problems as assessed by a new instrument, the maternal cognitions about infant sleep questionnaire. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 40(2), 247-258. 

Pisauro, M., Barni, D., Travaglini, E., De Stasio, S., & Ragni, B. (2021). Values and co-parenting. In Individual, family, society-contemporary challenges, fourth edition (Vol. 7, pp. 82-82). 

10% lived in rural areas, 35% lived in urban areas, and 55% lived in suburban areas. and the affordances in the home environment for motor development infant scale (AHEMD-IS; Cacola, Gabbard, Montebelo & Santos, 2015)

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