Parents’ Marital Problems Blamed for Sleeping Difficulties in Infants

Couples having marital difficulties may also have another problem on their hands – infants who are losing sleep, according to a new study.Oregon State University researchers found that marital instability when a child was nine months of age was related to sleep problems at 18 months of age.  These problems included both difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep.

“If sleep problems persist, this can correlate with problems in school, inattention and behavioral issues,” warned Anne Mannering, an Oregon State University faculty member in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, in a press release.

“Parents should be aware that stress in the marriage can potentially impact their child even at a very young age,” she added.

Mannering and her colleagues measured martal instability through surveys that asked questions such as “Has the thought of separating or getting a divorce crossed your mind?”

The researchers controlled for the possible role genes could play in sleep patterns and still found the same result.  They also took into account other factors such as birth order, parents’ anxiety and difficult infant temperament.

Meanwhile, the study did not find the reverse to be true: children’s sleep problems did not predict marital instability.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published in the journal Child Development.