The Strange Case of Disconnection: Co-sleeping, Attachment, and the Imported Picture Books about Bedtime in Taiwan

Open Access
Chou, Wan-Hsiang
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 21, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Daniel Dean Hade, Committee Chair
  • James Ewald Johnson, Committee Member
  • Steven Herb, Committee Member
  • Karen Treat Keifer Boyd, Committee Member
  • Dr Mary Galbraith, Committee Member
  • Taiwan
  • childrearing practices
  • fear
  • transitional objects
  • children's literature
  • picture books
  • attachment theory
  • parent child relations
  • sleep
This study argues that children's picture books about bedtime are cultural artifacts created from the ideas about children and childhood that have been popular in the United States in the past 60 years, including (a) the sleeping arrangements that isolate children from parents, (b) the perceptions of children as emotionally vulnerable, and (c) the parental goals relating to individuality and independence. Moreover, picture books about bedtime are part of the ritual of bedtime separation, and function as substitutes to an absent attachment figure. The translation of U.S. picture books about bedtime in Taiwan, where parent-child co-sleeping is the norm and the attachment relationship is different from in the U.S., is a rich site for exploring how different ideas of children and childhood interplay across cultures. Three groups of picture books about bedtime were collected and analyzed: popular books in the U.S. (1943-2006), translated U.S. books in Taiwan (1986-2006), and books created by Taiwanese authors (1981-2005). The comparison focused on the portrayals of children's bedtime practices in the books and how fictional parents and children cope with bedtime problems, such as fear, separation, and sleeplessness. Guides for parents coming with Taiwanese and translated picture books were also examined for their advice to parents regarding children's sleep and fear. The findings show that children's attachment to inanimate objects and self-soothing to sleep as strategies are often encouraged in the U.S. and translated picture books. Fictional children in these two groups of books also often avoid using parents as a secure base when facing nighttime fear and distress. Influences from U.S. culture can be seen in both Taiwanese creations of picture books about bedtime and in the notes to parents in the translated books. The conclusion suggests that adults in Taiwan need to be aware of the ideas of children and childhood in children's books translated or imported from other cultures and be sensitive about how these ideas may be different from Taiwanese childrearing goals and practices.