Marital Discord Disrupts Baby's Sleep, Study Finds

Filed under: Babies, In The News, Relationships, Sleep

Marital Discord

Babies exposed to marital discord have more trouble sleeping. Credit: Getty Images

Talk about your vicious cycles.

Your infant has trouble sleeping, so you're up half the night. This makes you cranky, irritable and short-tempered with your spouse.

And guess what? Researchers say babies exposed to marital discord have more trouble sleeping.

Face it. You can't win. You may now whimper pitifully if you wish. Researchers at Oregon State University would understand.

They studied more than 350 families with adopted babies ages 9 to 18 months. They stuck with adopted babies to make sure parents and children didn't share any genetic behaviors or personality traits.

"Our findings suggest that the effects of marital instability on children's sleep problems emerge earlier in development than has been demonstrated previously," researcher Anne Mannering, an instructor of human development at Oregon State University, says in a press release. "Parents should be aware that marital stress may affect the well-being of their children even in the first year or two of life."

Researchers wanted to confirm that marital problems, such as parents thinking about divorce, affected children's sleep later in their infancy. They found parental bickering when a child is 9 months old can affect his or her sleep nine months later.

And Manning says problems can manifest themselves much later than that. They can "correlate with problems in school, inattention and behavioral issues," she says in the release.

Marital instability was measured with such survey questions as, "Has the thought of separating or getting a divorce crossed your mind?" (If the answer is yes, by the way, don't worry. That just means you're married.)

Researchers also found no link between sleepless infants and parents' relationship problems. Then again, they probably reached that conclusion after a good night's sleep.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.