Longitudinal Associations Between Marital Instability and Child Sleep Problems Across Infancy and Toddlerhood in Adoptive Families


  • This project was supported by grant R01 HD042608, NICHD, NIDA, and the Office of the Director, NIH, U.S. PHS (PI Years 1–5: David Reiss, MD; PI Years 6–10: Leslie Leve, PhD). The writing of this manuscript was partially supported by P30 DA023920, NIDA, NIH, U.S. PHS. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. We thank the adoptive families who participated in this study, the adoption agency staff members who helped with the recruitment of study participants, Matthew Rabel and Michelle Baumann for editorial assistance, Samuel Simmens and Sally Guyer for data management assistance, and Xiaojia Ge and John Reid for their scientific contributions to the Early Growth and Development Study.

concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Anne M. Mannering or Leslie D. Leve, Oregon Social Learning Center, 10 Shelton McMurphey Boulevard, Eugene, OR 97401. Electronic mail may be sent to annem@oslc.org or lesliel@oslc.org.


This study examined the longitudinal association between marital instability and child sleep problems at ages 9 and 18 months in 357 families with a genetically unrelated infant adopted at birth. This design eliminates shared genes as an explanation for similarities between parent and child. Structural equation modeling indicated that T1 marital instability predicted T2 child sleep problems, but T1 child sleep problems did not predict T2 marital instability. This result was replicated when models were estimated separately for mothers and fathers. Thus, even after controlling for stability in sleep problems and marital instability and eliminating shared genetic influences on associations using a longitudinal adoption design, marital instability prospectively predicts early childhood sleep patterns.