An interesting paper reporting on a survey of doctors and parents:
“Although both [parents and doctors] thought that bed-wetting is a maturational problem, the parent group thought emotional causes were important and were less likely to accept small bladder size as an etiology.”
Medical research in the last generation has found genetic, hormonal and physiological causes for bedwetting. That would explain why doctors focus on those factors. Parents who don’t know about those studies probably still accept an earlier generation’s belief that bedwetting has emotional or behavioral causes. Or maybe it’s parents’ natural human tendency to believe that their children can control things to a greater degree than their children actually can; that a child could stop wetting if he tried hard enough.
An even more interesting result:
“Parents thought that children should be dry at a much younger age than did the physicians (2.75 vs 5.13 years, respectively)”
Wow. “Should be dry” before age 3.
Perhaps the parents interpret, “children should be dry”, as, “when would I like my kids to be dry”. Three might be a defensible answer to that. Most parents would like their kids to be dry by 3. I would have overjoyed, although given their genes, I didn’t expect it. (I’m sure Mom would really have loved for all her kids to have been dry at 3!)
On the other hand, that’s a high expectation. Surveys say that most kids still wet the bed at 3. I’m generally skeptical about the accuracy of these sorts of estimates, but these surveys seem well constructed.
Part of it may be that parents don’t remember when they stopped wetting the bed themselves. Most – almost all – of us stopped wetting the bed when we were too young to form a memory of it. An excessively rosy belief in one’s toddling maturity probably colors it back a year or two. I don’t remember when I stopped (although I certainly remember when I started again!), and I would be skeptical of anyone’s memory of being dry before 3. The only memories I would trust would be of people who wet the bed until well into school age, and even they would probably tend to nudge that memory.
The doctors may interpret the survey question as, “At what age can one expect most children to be dry?” Plausible surveys indicate that is about 5.
The right question is, “when should I become concerned”. Current medical wisdom seems to be age 7 or 8, unless the child starts wetting again after being dry (secondary enuresis), or bedwetting is affecting the child’s emotional state, or the child has other symptoms of diabetes, urinary tract infection or other medical problems.