A recent Australian study has opined that if parents delay their children's potty training until they are three or older, they're not harming their children's interests but also the environment.
According to the survey, children wore nappies for up to a year longer than earlier generations, with only about 50 percent completing daytime toilet training by the age of three. It found the ideal time to toilet train children was between 19 and 24 months.
It proposed that the convenience of disposable nappies, under skilled parents, wrong-headed ideas about psychological damage and a broader shift towards "laissez-faire" parenting were among the factors behind the change.
It also noted overseas research that the increasing prevalence of lower urinary tract dysfunction and infections among children may be linked to prolonged early incontinence.
Toilet Training of Infants and Children in Australia: 2010 is a small, Australian Research Council-funded survey by Anna Christie and part of The Restraint Project, a larger body of research being overseen by Professor Jim Franklin from the University of NSW.
Christie began her inquiries into toilet training patterns out of concern about the environmental effect of disposable nappies.
There was also the issue of faecal matter from children aged three and older contaminating domestic waste.
"The hygiene side is not to be understated," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted her as saying.
"It's pretty awful. I have heard of one council that has moved to fortnightly collection of rubbish. That means you've got sewerage waste sitting in a domestic rubbish bin for two weeks," she stated.
Robin Barker, the child rearing expert and author of The Mighty Toddler, supports Christie's thesis and changed her own toilet training recommendations for the most recent edition of her book.
Barker prefaced her comments to The Sun-Herald by pointing out they were not based on research but rather on experience and anecdote, and that more research is needed.
"All things being equal I think little humans are meant to be in control of their [continence] ... by their third birthday at the latest," she said.
"Toddlers want independence. And [delaying toilet training] flies in the face of all this other stuff we go on about with young children. We want them all learning the violin and reading ... but they're not potty trained," she added.