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Parental depressive symptoms and children’s sleep: the role of family conflict

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Background:  We used a multi‐method and multi‐informant design to identify developmental pathways through which parental depressive symptoms contribute to children’s sleep problems. Environmental factors including adult inter‐partner conflict and parent–child conflict were considered as process variables of this relation.

Methods:  An ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of children (n =268) participated (M age = 9.44 years, SD = 8.61 months). Children wore actigraphs for 7 consecutive nights and also reported on their sleep problems.

Results:  Higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms were associated with children’s sleep/wake problems. Higher levels of paternal depressive symptoms were associated with shorter time in bed and fewer sleep minutes. Inter‐partner conflict and parent–child conflict were mechanisms of effects in the associations between maternal depressive symptoms and children’s actigraphy‐based and self‐reported sleep problems.

Conclusions:  Findings build on this scant literature and highlight the importance of identifying pathways of risk and familial and environmental influences on children’s sleep problems.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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