Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Moderators of the Associations Between Early Childhood Sleep Problems and Elementary School Developmental Outcomes

Anna Johnson Dammann, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Sleep is important for child development. Sleep problems in early childhood are associated with negative outcomes across numerous domains, including executive control, internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, and social competence (Astill et al., 2012; Hysing et al., 2016; Spruyt et al., 2019). Little research has focused on moderators that may interact with sleep problems to exacerbate the risk for negative outcomes–a critical next step to facilitate the identification of and early intervention for children who may be particularly vulnerable to negative outcomes associated with sleep problems. Utilizing a sleep-specific developmental systems framework (El-Sheikh & Sadeh, 2015), four risk factors were examined as potential moderators of the associations between sleep problems and executive control and socioemotional outcomes: genetics (i.e., a dopamine polygenetic risk score), temperament (i.e., negative affectivity), maternal depression, and socioeconomic status (i.e., income-to-needs ratio). Data were collected from a community sample of 345 children across three time points during preschool and middle childhood. Children and their caregivers attended laboratory-based assessments and completed measures of sleep problems, executive control, socioemotional outcomes, and the identified moderators. In addition, teachers completed measures of socioemotional outcomes. Ten models were identified and tested using structural equation modeling. Controlling for biological and environmental risk factors, sleep problems at age five predicted components of executive control at age nine, specifically inhibition/flexible shifting but not working memory. Sleep problems at age five also predicted internalizing psychopathology. However, after controlling for risk factors, early childhood sleep problems did not predict later externalizing psychopathology, social competence, or social information processing. There were no significant interactions between sleep problems and any of the identified moderators (i.e., genetics, temperament, maternal depression, or socioeconomic status). These findings add to the literature documenting associations between early sleep problems and later developmental outcomes across cognitive and socioemotional domains and reinforce the need for better education surrounding optimal sleep practices, screening to identify children who may have sleep problems, and interventions for children with sleep problems.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Developmental psychology|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Dammann, Anna Johnson, "Moderators of the Associations Between Early Childhood Sleep Problems and Elementary School Developmental Outcomes" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30570301.