Sleep mediates the link between resiliency and behavioural problems in children at high and low risk for alcoholism

Ilana S. Hairston, Deirdre A. Conroy, Mary M. Heitzeg, Nasreen Z. Akbar, Kirk J. Brower, Robert A. Zucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk for developing substance use problems. Having a parent with any mental illness increases the risk for sleep disorders in children. Using actigraphy, this study characterized sleep in children of alcoholics and community controls over a period of 1week. This study further examined whether sleep characteristics of the children mediated the relationship between self-regulation indices (i.e. undercontrol and resiliency) and outcome measures of function (e.g. problem behaviours and perceived conflict at home). Eighty-two children (53 boys, 29 girls, 7.2-13.0 years old) were recruited from the ongoing Michigan Longitudinal Study. Seventeen participants had no parental history of alcohol abuse or dependence family history negative (FH-), 43 had at least one parent who was a recovered alcoholic, and 22 had at least one parent who met diagnostic criteria within the past 3 years. Sleep was assessed with actigraphy and sleep diaries for 1week, and combined with secondary analysis of data collected for the longitudinal study. FH- children had more objectively measured total sleep time. More total sleep time was associated with greater resiliency and behavioural control, fewer teacher-reported behavioural problems, and less child-reported conflict at home. Further, total sleep time partially mediated the relationship between resiliency and perceived conflict, and between resiliency and externalizing problems. These findings suggest that in high-risk homes, the opportunity to obtain sufficient sleep is reduced, and that insufficient sleep further exacerbates the effects of impaired dispositional self-regulatory capacity on behavioural and emotional regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-349
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 European Sleep Research Society.


  • Actigraphy
  • Externalizing behaviors
  • Resiliency
  • Undercontrol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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