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Parental Conflict Can Lead to Sleep Disorders in Children

A latest study conducted to determine the effect of parental conflict on learning and behavioral problems has now revealed that it might be due to the consequent sleep disorders in children. //Although it has been known from early times that conflict amongst parents lead to behavior and learning problems in children, the exact mechanism remained largely unclear.

This new study, published in the latest issue of Child Development journal has provided valuable insights into the negative consequences of conflict among parents. The study researchers examined the sleep pattern of nearly 54 children (aged 8 to 9 years), taking into consideration parental conflict from both parent’s and children’s viewpoint.

Children who had documented history of sleep disorders were excluded from the study. The conflict level of the study participant’s parents was in the normal range. The children were provided with a special device, Actigraph to record any change in sleep position during the entire duration of the study. This instrument was worn on the wrist, just like a watch.

The data collected from the instrument provided valuable information about the sleep pattern of the child. The frequency of sleep disturbances and the quality of the sleep was also assessed.

No difference was noted in the time children went to bed in houses with higher and lower conflicts. However, children exposed to greater level of parental conflict had a compromise sleep quality. In addition, they also slept less compared to their counterparts. Changing of sleep position (tossing or turning in bed) was more frequent among the experimental group members who further reported of daytime sleepiness.

The association between sleep disturbance and parental conflict were found to be more relevant when child reports were taken into consideration. Children who perceived conflict among parents to be intense, frequent and unresolved were more likely to suffer from sleep disorders.

‘The data suggest that even in families with normal levels of conflict, parental arguments and anger can disrupt children's sleep. This is significant because even mild loss of sleep can disrupt attention, alter information processing, weaken motivation, increase irritability and diminish emotion control,’ concluded Dr. Mona El-Sheikh, lead researcher of the study.

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