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All About Toilet Training

The big news in our family is that as of Thanksgiving time, the youngest scientist-in-training is now toilet-trained, at just over 3 years. When I mentioned this fact to one of our relatives, the person responded with, “It’s about time.” Then I got curious, as I tend to, and decided to do some research about the average age of toilet training and how that may have changed over the years. If it turned out that children were toilet trained at a much younger age a few decades ago, then perhaps that would explain the feeling of the relative that my daughter was late to toilet train.

It turns out that this suspicion was true, and that the average age of toilet training at least in the United States has gotten substantially older over the past several decades. Consider that until the 1950s, most children were toilet trained by one year old, and that as recently as the 1970s, the average age of toilet training in the United States was 18 months. In 2017, by contrast, the average age is now closer to 3 years old.

Why the change? Researchers aren’t sure, but suspect that the ready accessibility of disposable diapers contributes to the trend of keeping children in these diapers for longer periods of time. Physiological readiness of the children hasn’t really changed, though, with most children at or above 18 months of age being physiologically ready to be trained.

Of note, one area where there has been an even more dramatic shift is in the frequency of nighttime accidents. It used to be that most children were dry at night after around 2.5-3 years old. Now, however, many children continue to have nighttime accidents until around 5-6 years old, and pediatricians across the country are acknowledging that within the spectrum of normal child development.

Good luck, toilet-training parents! For us, we are still putting our pre-schooler in nighttime diapers, but our days of going everywhere with a diaper bag are just about at an end. I couldn’t be happier.

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