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Sleep Problems in Childhood Associated with Behavioral Problems

CITATION:  Gregory, A. M., and O’Connor, T. G., (2002).  Sleep problems in childhood: A longitudinal study of developmental change and association with behavioral problems.  Journal of the Americna Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 41(8), 964-971.

ABSTRACT:   The research into sleep disorders in children is limited when compared to that of adults (Gregory and O’Connor, 2002).  Research in adults has suggested a link between sleep problems and depression.   Gregory and O’Connor examine the sleep disorders in childhood and the link between them and mental issues.  

In order to examine this relationship, the authors researched three hypotheses (Gregory and O’Connor, 2002).  The first hypothesis is that problems with sleep decrease from preschool to adolescence.  Second, they hypothesize that sleep problems in early childhood predict subsequent depression/anxiety.  Finally, they explore the increase in the co-occurrences of sleep problems and depression/anxiety from preschool to mid-adolescents.

Their subjects were participants in the Colorado Adoption Project which was comprised of at least one point data from 490 children (Gregory and O’Connor, 2002).  These children ranged in age from four to seventeen.  Throughout the longitudinal study children were administered sleep questionnaires and the Child Behavior Checklist.

One of the first findings was that sleep problems change with development (Gregory and O’Connor, 2002).  There is as much as a 50% drop in the level of problems from age four to mid-adolescence.  Although, this number may be skewed, the data does show a significant decrease over time.  

The second finding shows that sleep problems at age four significantly predict depression/anxiety in mid-adolescence (Gregory and O’Connor, 2002).  Sleep problems also predicted attention problems and aggression.  However, the study found that the relationship was not reciprocal.  Early depression/anxiety or aggression did not predict sleep problems in mid–adolescence.

The third result was moderate, but not significant.  The results showed a moderate correlation with anxiety/depression, attention problems and aggression and sleep problems (Gregory and O’Connor, 2002).  The significance of the correlation did not change between age four and mid-adolescence.


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