How parents get on influences their toddler’s sleep – and vice versa

Photo: midiman. Creative Commons.

Parents’ relationships are linked to the quality of their children’s sleep, according to a new study that adds to research showing that how parents work together is as important for children as the quality of their individual parenting. This has big implications for how family services are organised to support parents.

Jack Peltz at Hobart & William Smith Colleges (New York) studied 249 families, interviewing parents of 2-year-olds five times over eight months.

When parents reported a better relationship in general and better cooperation around parenting, they also reported that their children sleep better. Similarly, if they reported less satisfaction with their relationship, they reported that their children were sleeping less well.

The link also worked the other way round: when parents reported sleeping problems, they later reported poorer relationships and coparenting.

The links appear to be stronger for mothers than they are for fathers, but the researchers think this might be simply because the mothers in the sample were more involved with children at bedtime than the fathers were.

Peltz JS, Rogge RD, Sturge-Apple ML, O’Connor TG & Pigeon WR (2016), Reciprocal influences among family processes and toddlers’ sleep problems, Journal of Family Psychology 30(6)