Maternal Stress and Psychological Status and Sleep in Minority Preschool Children


  • Barbara A. Caldwell Ph.D., A.N.P.-B.C.,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Nursing, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey
    • Correspondence to:

      Barbara A. Caldwell, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Nursing, 65 Bergen Street, Newark, NJ 07101. E-mail:

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  • Nancy S. Redeker Ph.D., R.N., F.A.H.A., F.A.A.N.

    1. Yale University School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut
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Minority women living in inner city environments may be at more risk for psychological distress. Maternal stress, anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma can influence the preschool child's behavior and may have a negative impact on the preschool child's sleep patterns. The purpose of the study was to: (a) examine objective and subjective preschool children sleep patterns and (b) explore the relationship between objective and subjective sleep patterns in preschool children and maternal psychological status.

Design and Sample

A cross-sectional observational design was used. Descriptive analyses and correlations were conducted to examine the data. Twenty-one minority women were recruited from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Program.


Preschool children wore wrist actigraphs, and their sleep efficiency, time in bed, and sleep periods were analyzed. Mothers completed measures on depression, anxiety, stress, and psychological trauma.


Mothers' self-report of their children's sleep habits indicated at risk scores for sleep problems. Life stress in the mothers was statistically significant and negatively related to preschool child's sleep duration. Mild to severe symptoms of depression and mild anxiety were reported and criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder were found in 12 of the 21 mothers. The results of the study indicate that parent education on sleep and the minority preschool child should be part of community interventions and screening preschool parents for psychological distress should be considered with referrals for support services.