Views & Reviews Personal view

What's potty about early toilet training?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 31 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1166
  1. Rosemarie Anthony-Pillai, specialist registrar in palliative medicine, Mount Vernon Hospital, Northwood, Middlesex
  1. roseap{at}

    I have returned to work after eight months' maternity leave following the birth of my daughter. These have been months filled with wishing people would forget that I am a doctor and treat me like any new mother, and wishing that others would remember that I am a doctor and stop treating me like an idiot. With motherhood comes not only a new baby but endless good advice. So it is always a good idea to challenge perceived wisdom. One area I would like to tackle is the issue of toilet training.

    In the West, a toddler learns to toilet train any time after 18 months, the average being around two and half years. This has been the case for the past 40 years, following work done in the late 1960s which developed the idea of child readiness—physiological, emotional, and social. This child centred approach was in stark contrast to the parent centred strict toileting of the 1930s, which was felt to have adverse behavioural consequences. My own opinion is that the development of …

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