Original Article

Child Sleep and Parent Depressive Symptoms

Authors: Rachael A. Herriman, MD, Adrienne Stolfi, PhD, MSPH, John M. Pascoe, MD, MPH


Objectives: Parent distress and child sleep problems have been associated in earlier research. The present study expands on past research on parent depressive symptoms and their child’s sleep. This study examines the relation between parents who screen positive for depressive symptoms and their perception of their child’s sleep.

Methods: Three hundred sixty-nine English-speaking parents of children ages 3 to 5 years (n = 134) or 6 to 11 years (n = 235) met this study’s inclusion criteria within the Southwestern Ohio Ambulatory Research Network (response rate 90%). The validated scales used were the RAND Depression Screener (DS), the Wisconsin Abbreviated Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire (WCSHQ), and the Jenkins Sleep Questionnaire. Multiple logistic regression was used to determine adjusted odds ratios (AORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for associations with the WCSHQ.

Results: In total, 74.3% of the study children were White, 82.4% of respondents were the child’s mother, 75.1% had at least some college education, and 54.4% reported an annual income of <$50,000. In total, 54.4% of children were male and 53.8% had public health insurance. Approximately one-fourth of parents had a positive DS and nearly one-third reported sleep problems. Adjusting for child’s age and other factors, we found that parents with a positive (vs negative) DS had AOR 2.42 (95% CI 1.38–4.24) for higher WCSHQ scores. Children ages 3 to 5 years (vs 6–11 years) had AOR 2.48 (95% CI 1.56–3.95) for higher WCSHQ scores.

Conclusions: Parents with a positive DS were more likely to report sleep problems in their children after adjusting for the child’s age. These findings from a diverse sample of US Midwestern families at primary care venues corroborate previous research.
Posted in: Mental Health27

This content is limited to qualifying members.

Existing members, please login first.

If you have an existing account please login now to access this article or view your purchase options.

Purchase only this article ($15)

Create a free account, then purchase this article to download or access it online for 24 hours.

Purchase an SMJ online subscription ($75)

Create a free account, then purchase a subscription to get complete access to all articles for a full year.

Purchase a membership plan (fees vary)

Premium members can access all articles plus recieve many more benefits. View all membership plans and benefit packages.


1. Meltzer LJ, Mindell JA. Relationship between child sleep disturbances and maternal sleep, mood, and parenting stress: a pilot study. J Fam Psychol 2007;21:67–73.
2. Owens J. Classification and epidemiology of childhood sleep disorders. Prim Care 2008;35:533–546.
3. Byars KC, Yeomans-Maldonado G, Noll JG. Parental functioning and pediatric sleep disturbance: an examination of factors associated with parenting stress in children clinically referred for evaluation of insomnia. Sleep Med 2011;12:898–905.
4. El-Sheikh M, Kelly RJ, Bagley EJ, et al. Parental depressive symptoms and children’s sleep: the role of family conflict. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2012;53:806–814.
5. Keller PS, Kouros CD, Erath SA, et al. Longitudinal relations between maternal depressive symptoms and child sleep problems: the role of parasympathetic nervous system reactivity. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2014;55:172–179.
6. Moore K, Gordon J, McLean L. Child sleep problems and parental depression: testing a risk and resistance model. J Child Fam Stud 2012;21: 982–991.
7. Simola P, Liukkonen K, Pitkäranta A, et al. Psychosocial and somatic outcomes of sleep problems in children: a 4-year follow-up study. Child Care Health Dev 2014;40:60–67.
8. Tyler D, Donovan CL, Scupham S, et al. Young children’s sleep problems: the impact of parental distress and parenting style. J Child Fam Stud 2019;28:2098–2106.
9. Stormark KM, Fosse HE, Pallesen S, et al. The association between sleep problems and academic performance in primary school-aged children: findings from a Norwegian longitudinal population-based study. PLoS One 2019;14:1–15.
10. Whalen DJ, Gilbert KE, Barch DM, et al. Variation in common preschool sleep problems as an early predictor for depression and anxiety symptom severity across time. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2017;58:151–159.
11. Owens JA, Spirito A, McGuinn M. The children’s sleep habits questionnaire (CSHQ): psychometric properties of a survey instrument for school-aged children. Sleep 2000;23:1–9.
12. Goodlin-Jones BL, Sitnick SL, Tang K, et al. The children’s sleep habits questionnaire in toddlers and preschool children. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2008;29:82–88.
13. Martin J, Hiscock H, Hardy P, et al. Adverse associations of infant and child sleep problems and parent health: an Australian population study. Pediatrics 2007;119:947–955.
14. Parade SH, Wong K, Belair R, et al. Infant sleep moderates the effect of infant temperament on maternal depressive symptoms, maternal sensitivity, and family functioning. Infant Behav Dev 2019;57:101343.
15. Bevans KB, Bhatt SK, Pascoe JM, et al. Measurement of maternal instrumental support: findings from three population-based cohort studies. Matern Child Health J 2013;17:14–22.
16 RAND Corporation. Depression screener from RAND Health Care. https://www.rand.org/health-care/surveys_tools/depression.html. Accessed March 6, 2020.
17. Wisconsin abbreviated children’s sleep habits questionnaire. [National institute of child health and human development study of early child care and youth development]. https://njaap.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Childrens-SleepHabits-Questionnaire.pdf. Accessed March 6, 2020.
18. Jenkins CD, Stanton BA, Niemcryk SJ, et al. A scale for the estimation of sleep problems in clinical research. J Clin Epidemiol 1988;41:313–321.
19. Bronfenbrenner U. Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2009: 22.
20. Francazio SK, Fahrenkamp AJ, D’Auria AL, et al. Parent psychopathology as a mediator of the relationship between anxiety and sleep problems in children. Fam Syst Health 2015;33:146–154.
21. Teti DM, Crosby B. Maternal depressive symptoms, dysfunctional cognitions, and infant night waking: the role of maternal nighttime behavior. Child Dev 2012;83:939–953.
22. Cook F, Conway L, Gartland D, et al. Profiles and predictors of infant sleep problems across the first year. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2020;41:104–116.
23. Sheridan A, Murray L, Cooper PJ, et al. A longitudinal study of child sleep in high and low risk families: relationship to early maternal settling strategies and child psychological functioning. Sleep Med 2013;14:266–273.