The Study Parenting styles have no notable effect on children's success or failure at potty-training, finds a report in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics. What proved more important was the kids' temperaments.

The Inside Poop Researchers in Boston queried the parents of 46 kids (mean age 5.1 years) whose toilet-training problems had led them to the Pains and Incontinence Program Clinic at Children's Hospital Boston. Kids in this "difficult toilet trainer" group were found to be less adaptable, more negative in mood, less persistent and more likely to withdraw from new situations than children in a group of 62 (recruited from Boston-area preschools; mean age 4.5 years) who had trained easily. A second survey revealed the "difficult" kids were more likely to have experienced constipation than their potty-trained peers.

The Parents Parents of kids in both groups completed a survey designed to measure laxness (allowing rules to go unenforced), "over-reactivity" (a tendency toward meanness, anger and irritability) and verboseness (reliance on talking even when it proves ineffective). Though researchers had hypothesized that parents of the "difficult" kids would prove more dysfunctional, they found little difference between the two sets of parents.

The Bottom Line The findings offer some solace to parents worried that their own parenting shortcomings have made it more difficult for their kids to get the hang of using the potty, suggests lead researcher Alison Schonwald of Children's Hospital Boston. Parents and doctors who are armed with these new findings, Schonwald said, may be better equipped to seek alternative approaches, like breaking toilet training into small, manageable chunks.

But . . . The study was small, not universally representative and based on self-reports. More research, Schonwald said, is needed.

-- Jennifer Huget