Economic adversity and children's sleep problems: Multiple indicators and moderation of effects

Mona El-Sheikh*, Erika J. Bagley, Margaret Keiley, Lori Elmore-Staton, Edith Chen, Joseph A. Buckhalt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Objective: Toward explicating relations between economic adversity and children's sleep, we examined associations between multiple indicators of socioeconomic status (SES)/adversity and childrens objectively and subjectively derived sleep parameters; ethnicity was examined as potential moderator. Methods: Participants were 276 third- and fourth-grade children and their families (133 girls; M age = 9.44 years; SD =.71): 66% European American (EA) and 34% African American (AA). Four SES indicators were used: income-to-needs ratio, perceived economic well-being, maternal education, and community poverty. Children wore actigraphs for 7 nights and completed a self-report measure to assess sleep problems. Results: Objectively and subjectively assessed sleep parameters were related to different SES indicators, and overall worse sleep was evident for children from lower SES homes. Specifically, children from homes with lower income-to-needs ratios had higher levels of reported sleep/wake problems. Parental perceived economic well-being was associated with shorter sleep minutes and greater variability in sleep onset for children. Lower mothers education was associated with lower sleep efficiency. Children who attended Title 1 schools had shorter sleep minutes. Ethnicity was a significant moderator of effects in the link between some SES indicators and childrens sleep. AA childrens sleep was more negatively affected by income-to-needs ratio and mothers education than was the sleep of EA children. Conclusions: The results advocate for the importance of specifying particular SES and sleep variables used because they may affect the ability to detect associations between sleep and economic adversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-859
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Actigraphy
  • Children
  • Health disparity
  • Sleep
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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