Single-parent Family Structure and Sleep Problems in Black and White Adolescents

Published In: Sleep Medicine, v. 15, no. 2, Feb. 2014, p. 255-261

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Wendy M. Troxel, Laisze Lee, Martica Hall, Karen A. Matthews

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Research Question

  1. Do teenagers from single-parent families have poorer sleep than teenagers from two-parent homes?

OBJECTIVES: Sleep is critical for adolescent health and is influenced by the family environment. In our study, we examined if family structure defined as single- vs 2-parent households affected adolescent sleep. METHODS: Participants were 242 (57% black; 47% boys) healthy adolescents (mean age, 15.7 years). Sleep was measured using self-report and wrist actigraphy over 7 consecutive nights. Outcomes were actigraphy-assessed sleep duration and sleep efficiency (SE) for the full week and weekends and weekdays separately, as well as self-reported sleep-wake problems and variability in bedtimes. Linear regression examined the relationship between family structure and sleep, after adjusting for age, sex, race, body mass index, and depressive symptoms, parental education, family conflict, and financial strain. Race and sex were examined as potential moderators. RESULTS: After adjusting for covariates, adolescents from single-parent households had poorer SE across the week and shorter sleep duration on weekends. White adolescents from 2-parent households had the fewer sleep-wake problems and lower bedtime variability, whereas black adolescents from single-parent households had the lowest weekend SE. There were no significant differences in family structure sex interactions. CONCLUSION: Our findings are the first to demonstrate that single-parent family structure is an independent correlate of sleep problems in adolescents, and they highlight the moderating role of race.

Key Findings

  • Adolescents from single-parent families have poorer sleep than adolescents from two-parent families.
  • White adolescents from two-parent households had fewer sleep problems and the most consistent sleep schedules.

Recommendations

  • Consistent sleep-wake patterns are important for maintaining healthy sleep.
  • Parents should encourage consistent bedtime routines for their teens.

Research conducted by

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