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Unhappy parents 'affects babies'

12th May 2011

A UK expert has warned that parents need to be more aware of how the stress in their own lives impacts upon their children.

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It comes amid research suggesting toddlers are more likely to have disrupted sleep patterns if their parents are in an unhappy relationship.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, looked at 357 adopted children and their families in the US.

Parents were interviewed when the child was nine months old and again at 18 months and then answered a questionnaire which assessed the state of their relationship, stress levels and their child’s sleep patterns.

Researchers found the strength of the parents' relationship at nine months affected sleep patterns at 18 months and that marital instability was a factor in child sleep problems.

Professor Gordon Harold, from the University of Leicester, and part of the international research group, said: “Regulated sleep is essential during infancy for healthy brain and physical development.

“Disrupted sleep can affect brain development and result in early temperament problems which then leads to a cascade of problems: social, behavioural, academic.”

Adopted children were selected for the study in order to eliminate any genetic issues that may affect the sleep patterns.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Jamie Houston from Lorn and Islands Hospital in Scotland said: “Parents need to be aware of the stressors that affect them and minimise the effect on their children.”

Dr Jon Goldin, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital said the study supported clinical experience that infants are aware of the emotional climate at home.

 

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