Predictors and Consequences of Disruptions in Sleep among Children
Type of Degreedissertation
Human Development and Family Studies
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This dissertation includes two studies. In the first study, children’s emotional insecurity was examined as a process variable and as a moderator of effects using three waves of data spanning five years. Participants were 176 children at T1 (M = 8.68 years), 141 children at T2 (M = 10.70 years) and 113 children at T3 (M = 13.60 years) along with their parents. Parents reported on marital conflict, children reported on their emotional insecurity in the parental marital relationship, and children’s sleep was measured via self-reports and actigraphy. Marital conflict predicted increased emotional insecurity about the marital relationship two years later (T2), which in turn predicted greater sleep problems three years later (T3). Moderation analyses indicated that increased emotional insecurity was a vulnerability factor for sleep problems in the context of greater marital conflict. Findings illustrate the importance of considering children’s sleep within the family context and demonstrate the pivotal role of emotional security. Using the same sample, the second paper examined the reciprocal relations between children’s sleep and their internalizing and externalizing symptoms across the three waves of data. Sleep was measured subjectively via self-reports and objectively via actigraphy and children and parents reported on children’s adjustment. Cross-lagged panel models were fit to examine whether sleep problems predicted changes in internalizing and externalizing symptoms over time. Examining reciprocal relations, we also assessed internalizing and externalizing symptoms as predictors of changes in sleep problems longitudinally. Reduced sleep amount and worse sleep quality predicted increases in depression, anxiety, and externalizing symptoms over time. To a lesser extent but supportive of reciprocal relations, more internalizing and externalizing symptoms predicted increases in sleep problems longitudinally. In sum, the iii cyclical nature between sleep problems and adjustment difficulties are demonstrated among otherwise normally developing youth. Across both studies, important advances are made in identifying the predictors and consequences of children’s sleep problems, which is an important facet of biological regulation that plays a key role in ensuring a healthy development.