Behavior and Sleep Problems in Children With a Family History of Autism


  • Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
  • This research was supported by the following grants. Grant sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health; Grant numbers: K99/R00 MH092431(Schwichtenberg), R01 MH068398 (Ozonoff), and U54 MH068172 (Sigman).

Address for correspondence and reprints: Amy Jo Schwichtenberg, M.I.N.D. Institute, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, 2825 50th Street, Sacramento, CA 95817. E-mail:


The present study explores behavioral and sleep outcomes in preschool-age siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This study focuses on behavior problems that are common in children with ASD, such as emotional reactivity, anxiety, inattention, aggression, and sleep problems. Infant siblings were recruited from families with at least one older child with ASD (high-risk group, n = 104) or families with no history of ASD (low-risk group, n = 76). As part of a longitudinal prospective study, children completed the Mullen Scales of Early Learning and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, and parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Social Communication Questionnaire at 36 months of age. This study focuses on developmental concerns outside of ASD; therefore, only siblings who did not develop an ASD were included in analyses. Negative binomial regression analyses revealed that children in the high-risk group were more likely to have elevated behavior problems on the CBCL Anxious/Depressed and Aggression subscales. To explore sleep problems as a correlate of these behavior problems, a second series of models was specified. For both groups of children, sleep problems were associated with elevated behavior problems in each of the areas assessed (reactivity, anxiety, somatic complaints, withdrawal, attention, and aggression). These findings support close monitoring of children with a family history of ASD for both behavioral and sleep issues. Autism Res 2013, 6: 169–176. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.