Sleep-Deprived Mothers: How Changes in Sleep Affect Parent Stress and Behavior

Master's Thesis


The current study investigates the cascading effects of infant sleep patterns on parent stress and subsequent parenting behaviors during wakefulness. The study utilizes data from a multisite, longitudinal study, Parenting for the First Time project (PFT; Borkowski, et al., 2013). The study includes a demographically diverse sample with low SES, less educated teen- and adult-mothers as well as higher educated adult-mothers. The sample included 682 first time mothers and their infant who participated in a 3-year longitudinal study to examine precursors of neglectful parenting. Mothers reported on demographic and sleep variables. Mothers and infants participated in four home visits at 4-, 8-, 18-, and 30-months to assess parenting behaviors, infant behaviors, and parent-child interaction quality. To assess the effect of infant sleep patterns on parent stress and maternal sensitivity over time, the current study conducted cross-lagged panel models (CLPMs; Cole & Maxwell, 2003). It is hypothesized that infant sleep quality increases parental stress and therefore negatively impact sensitivity over time. Early infant sleep and parent stress both predicted decreases in maternal sensitivity. Additional pathways were examined but were nonsignificant. Also, models explored the same pathways but allowed for differences based on maternal risk status; results were nonsignificant. The findings demonstrate how the transition to parenthood and resulting sleep patterns and greater stress affect a mother’s ability to engage with their infants sensitively.


Attribute NameValues
Author Molly J. O'Neill
Contributor Julie M. Braungart-Rieker, Research Director
Contributor Peggy Wang, Committee Member
Contributor Kristin Valentino, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name Master of Arts
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2020-11-24

Submission Date 2020-12-11
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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