Sleep disruptions and emotional insecurity are pathways of risk for children


Mona El-Sheikh, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA; Tel: 1-334-844-3294; Fax: 1-334-844-4515; Email:


Background:  Sleep problems are prevalent in American children. A critical need is to identify sources and processes related to sleep disruptions and their sequelae. We examined a model linking parental marital conflict and children's emotional insecurity, sleep disruptions, and their adjustment and academic problems.

Method:  One hundred and sixty-six elementary school children reported on marital conflict and their emotional insecurity, the quantity and quality of children's sleep were examined through actigraphy, and parents and teachers reported on child functioning.

Results:  In the context of exposure to normative levels of marital conflict, children's emotional insecurity regarding their parents’ marital relationship is an intervening variable in the marital conflict–sleep disruptions link. In turn, disruptions in the quality and duration of children's sleep have a negative effect on children's behavioral, emotional, and academic performance.

Conclusions:  Findings highlight the importance of marital conflict and children's emotional insecurity as variables that can affect a fundamental aspect of biological regulation, sleep, which consequently influences children's adjustment and academic performance.