Maternal Differentiation of Self and Toddlers’ Sleep: The Mediating Role of Nighttime Involvement

Tamar Simon, Anat Scher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Good sleep is essential for optimal development and adaptive functioning. Hence, identifying the factors that shape sleep quality is important. Based on the transactional model of sleep development and drawing on Bowen’s concept of differentiation of self (DoS), the present study examined the interrelations between sleep-related parental behavior, child’s sleep quality, and mothers’ DoS. A community sample of 130 mothers of 24- to 36-month-old children completed the DoS instrument and sleep questionnaires. Lower maternal DoS levels were associated with higher parental sleep-related involvement, both at bedtime and through the course of the night. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), a path analysis model indicates that maternal sleep-related involvement functions as a mediator through which the differentiation of self is related to the sleep characteristics of toddlers. As the links between parenting practices and child sleep reflect bi-directional associations, the conclusion that can be drawn from the present data is that relational aspects, such as those defined and measured by the construct of DoS, contribute to sleep–wake regulation beyond infancy. The data suggest that this construct should be considered in intervention research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1714
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 17 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the families who participated in this study. Thanks are also due to Sandra Zukerman for her contribution in data analysis. The administrative and financial support of the Centre for the Study of Child Development is gratefully acknowledged.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • bedtime practices
  • children
  • differentiation of self
  • nighttime parenting
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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