Sleep problems in childhood: a longitudinal study of developmental change and association with behavioral problems

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Aug;41(8):964-71. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200208000-00015.


Objective: The objective of the study was to examine specificity, order of appearance, and developmental changes in the relationships between sleep problems and behavioral problems in children.

Method: Four hundred ninety children were selected from a large-scale longitudinal study of children growing up in adoptive and nonadoptive (biological) families in Colorado. Parental ratings of children's sleep and behavioral problems on the Child Behavior Checklist were obtained from ages 4 to 15 years.

Results: Sleep problems decreased from age 4 years to mid-adolescence, but there was modest stability of individual differences across this age range (r = 0.29). Regression analyses indicated that sleep problems at age 4 predicted behavioral/emotional problems in mid-adolescence after accounting for child sex, adoptive status, and stability of behavioral/emotional problems. Finally, the correlation between sleep problems and depression/anxiety increased significantly during this age period from r = 0.39 at age 4 years to r = 0.52 at mid-adolescence.

Conclusions: Early sleep problems may forecast behavioral/emotional problems, and there may be important developmental change in the overlap between sleep problems and behavioral/emotional problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Personality Development*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology