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Marital Conflict and Disruption of Children's Sleep


  • This project was funded by an Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station/Lindsey Foundation Grant ALA080-001.

  • We thank Karen Martin, Lori Staton, April Farr, and Brandi Helms for data collection and coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Mona El-Sheikh, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849. Electronic mail may be sent to


Marital conflict was examined as a predictor of the quality and quantity of sleep in a sample of healthy 8- to 9-year-olds. Parents and children reported on marital conflict, the quantity and quality of children's sleep were examined through an actigraph worn for 7 consecutive nights, and child sleepiness was derived from child and mother reports. Increased marital conflict was associated with disruptions in the quantity and quality of children's sleep as well as subjective sleepiness, even after controlling for child age, ethnic group membership, socioeconomic status, sex, and body mass index. The results support the sensitization hypothesis in that exposure to marital conflict may influence an important facet of children's biological regulation, namely sleep.