Marriage problems related to infants’ sleep difficulties


May 11, 2011
Blog Entry, Health

Couples having marital difficulties may have infants who are losing sleep, according to a new study – and that may have a continuing impact on the children.

Specifically, researchers found that marital instability when the child was ninth months old was related to child sleep problems at 18 months, including difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep, according to Anne Mannering, an Oregon State University faculty member in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences.

“If sleep problems persist, this can correlate with problems in school, inattention and behavioral issues,” Mannering said. “Parents should be aware that stress in the marriage can potentially impact their child even at a very young age.”

The findings of the research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, appear in the journal Child Development. Mannering was at the Oregon Social Learning Center when she and her collaborators conducted the research.

According to Mannering, this is the first study done on the link between marital issues and infant sleep that unambiguously eliminated the role of shared genes between parents and children. Researchers interviewed more than 350 families with adopted infants in order to eliminate the possibility that these shared genes influence the relationship between marital instability and child sleep problems.

“Our findings suggest that the association between marital instability and children’s subsequent sleep problems emerges earlier in development than has been demonstrated previously,” she said.

The researchers found that marital instability when children were nine months old predicted increases in sleep problems when they were 18 months old. Even after taking into account factors such as birth order, parents’ anxiety and difficult infant temperament, the findings still held.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find the reverse to be true: children’s sleep problems did not predict marital instability.

Marital instability was ranked using a standard four-point research measure, with couples independently answering questions such as “Has the thought of separating or getting a divorce crossed your mind?”

Mannering said the couples were predominately middle class, white and fairly educated and all had adopted their child within the first three months of birth.

The research team is now investigating whether the relationship between marital instability and child sleep problems persists after age two, and the role that the parent-child relationship might play in these associations.


3 Responses to Marriage problems related to infants’ sleep difficulties

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  3. RaZZZ May 13, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    It’s unfortunate that families can suffer so much from bad sleep. Most of us know what to do in order to better yourselves, but are not willing to take the steps and make the changes towards it. Sleep is crucial to a happy life. Some very helpful natural sleep remedies are things such as a ‘worry journal’, turning off the stimulants before bed, or a bath.
    A ‘worry journal’ is a book you can keep beside your bed and write in before you turn off the lights. Make sure your bedroom has lights that can be dimmed (as well as the rest of your house) because bright lights stimulate the brain and trick it into thinking it’s day time. You can write anything you like in the journal such as your thoughts or to do list. Don’t hold back, you can always though it out in the morning.
    Most people live very fast paced lives. For better quality sleep, you want to reduce the stimulants in the evening while your body readies itself for sleep. The FREE e-book called Get To Sleep Now! It’s got 39 tips to following asleep. http://www.instantlyfallasleep.com including things to avoid like eating late, reading, watching TV, exercise, a fight. Save all these things for the daytime.

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