Marital Instability May Predict Sleep Problems in Children

Marital instability at 9 months predicts sleep problems at 18 months, but not the reciprocal

THURSDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Marital instability prospectively predicts early childhood sleep patterns, even after controlling for factors such as sleep problems, and eliminating shared genetic influences, according to a study published online May 11 in Child Development.

Anne M. Mannering, M.D., from the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, and colleagues evaluated the longitudinal correlation between marital instability and child sleep problems in 357 families who adopted a genetically unrelated infant at birth. Use of adoptive families removed shared genes as an explanation for similarities between parent and child. Adoptive parents independently completed in-home assessments at 9 and 18 months. The five-item Marital Instability Index was used to assess marital instability. The six-item bedtime resistance subscale from the Sleep Habits Questionnaire, which assessed the child's difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, was used to evaluate children's sleep.

The investigators found that marital instability at 9 months predicted child sleep problems at 18 months, but child sleep problems at 9 months did not predict marital instability at 18 months. This pattern of effects was seen when analyses were conducted separately for mother-reported instability and father-reported instability.

"This pattern of results suggests that marital instability represents a risk factor in the emergence of child sleep problems early in development," the authors write.

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