Effects on parenting and the family

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The effects of a child's persistent sleep disturbance on family life, including its possible influence on parenting skills, is another important dimension.

Mothers of children with mental retardation (learning disability) and severe sleep problems have been reported to be more irritable, concerned about their own health, and less affectionate towards their children, with less control and increased use of punishment than mothers of such children without sleep problems. (7) Similar associations have also been suggested between sleeplessness in toddlers in the general population and family problems, including marital discord and possibly physical abuse of the child.(8)

Family tensions are likely to increase when diagnosis of the child's sleep disorder is delayed or inaccurate, or when effective help is not provided.

There has been very little research on these important issues but preliminary findings also suggest that successful treatment of the child's sleep problem generally leads to improvement in the mother's mental state, confidence in her own parenting ability, her relationship with her child, and also the child's behaviour. (§,10) Wider aspects of family function, including effects on siblings, have received little attention.

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