View all news

Wetting the bed: what we've discovered

Press release issued: 30 October 2015

New research from Children of the 90s focuses on bedwetting and finds that there are several factors that identify whether children are at risk of their bedwetting persisting into late childhood.  Persistent bedwetting – defined here as wetting the bed up to the age of nine – has been linked to distress and could possibly lead to emotional and other problems.

Dr Carol Joinson, who led the research, found that: 

  • a child was much more likely to wet the bed if their parents had done so when they were children
  • boys were three times more likely than girls to still be wetting the bed by the time they went to school
  • children with delayed development at 18 months were more likely to wet the bed up to the age of nine
  • children whose parents rated them as having a difficult temperament (e.g. finding it hard to adjust to changes in routines) and behaviour problems (e.g. fighting with other children) when they were 2-3 years were more likely to be bedwetting at 4-9 years.

Speaking about what she discovered, Dr Joinson said:

Some parents do not consider seeking treatment for bedwetting until it has started to have a knock-on effect on their child’s quality of life and many may be unaware that there are effective treatments available. 

In the UK, doctors will assess bedwetting in children aged 5 and over. 

Parents should be encouraged to seek treatment for their children if they are still wetting the bed frequently (at least twice a week) when they are five years old or older because treating the condition now could help to reduce the risk of it becoming persistent and lower the risk of it affecting the child’s wellbeing.

Support for parents is also available from the continence charity ERIC.

Further information

This article is based on two recent papers by Dr Joinson:

  • Sullivan S, Joinson C, Heron J. Factors predicting atypical development of nighttime bladder control: a prospective cohort study. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Published 13 October 2015.
  • Joinson C, Sullivan S, von Gontard, Heron J. The role of early childhood psychological factors in determining risk for enuresis at school age in a UK cohort.  European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Published 21 August 2015.
Edit this page