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J Pediatr (Rio J). 2008 Jan-Feb;84(1):9-17. doi: 10.2223/JPED.1752.

Toilet training: methods, parental expectations and associated dysfunctions.

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Universidade Federal de Pelotas (UFPel), Pelotas, RS, Brazil.



To review both the scientific literature and lay literature on toilet training, covering parents' expectations, the methods available for achieving bladder and bowel control and associated morbidities.


Articles published between 1960 and 2007, identified via the MEDLINE, Cochrane Collaboration, ERIC, Web of Science, LILACS and SciELO databases plus queries on the Google search engine; a search of related articles, references of articles, by author and of pediatrics societies. A total of 473 articles were examined and 85 of these were selected for this review.


Parents have unrealistic expectations about the age at which diapers can be withdrawn, not taking child development into account. Toilet training strategies have not changed over recent decades, and in the majority of countries the age at which children are trained has been postponed. Training methods are rarely used. Starting toilet training prematurely and stressful events during this period can extend the training process. Children who have not been trained correctly present with enuresis, urinary infection, voiding dysfunction, constipation, encopresis and refusal to go to the toilet more frequently. Literature intended for lay parents is both abundant and adequate, available in book form and on the Internet, but it is not widely available to the Brazilian population. Just three international pediatrics societies have published guidelines on toilet training.


Toilet training is occurring later in the majority of countries. The training methods that exist are the same from decades ago and are rarely used by mothers and valued little by pediatricians; incorrect training can be a causative factor for bladder and bowel disorders, which in turn cause problems for children and their families.

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