National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health
Sleep and Child Developmental Outcomes: Physiological and Contextual Influences. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. Grant No. R01-HL093246
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Child Regulation and Exposure to Marital Violence, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Grant No. R01-HD046795
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Developmental Trajectories of Children’s Sleep and Development. National Science Foundation, Grant No. 0843185
Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station/Lindsey Foundation
Childhood Stress Exposure: Physiological Mechanisms of Risk and Resilience. Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station/Lindsey Foundation Grant No. ALA080-049
Sleep and Child Developmental Outcomes: Physiological and Contextual Influences Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health
Sleep deprivation in American children is a matter of national concern. Estimates of children with sleep disturbances range from 20% to 40%. Behavior problems, negative mood, neurobehavioral impairments, and academic underachievement have been associated with childhood sleep disturbances. The objectives of the present study are to: (1) examine linkages between sleep parameters (amount, quality, schedule) and developmental trajectories of mental health, physical health, and cognitive/academic outcomes; (2) investigate multi-system processes, in which associations between sleep disturbances and developmental outcomes are mediated or moderated by vagal tone or vagal suppression; and (3) evaluate the extent to which these associations and developmental processes operate differently by ethnicity, socioeconomic levels, child gender, and pubertal status.
The longitudinal design will involve 4 waves of data collection with a one-year lag between each wave. The sample will consist of 260 children (8-10 years of age at Time 1). Sleep parameters will be assessed objectively, via actigraphy, and subjectively, via child and parent reports. Well-established procedures will assess vagal tone and vagal suppression to laboratory challenges. Children’s adjustment and health will be assessed with parent, child, and teacher reports. Cognitive skill and achievement will be assessed via standardized tests and grades.
The study will advance understanding of child outcomes associated with sleep disturbances by studying physiological responses that exacerbate or attenuate the effects of sleep disturbances, and by examining public health priorities as outcomes, such as body mass index, physical health and illness, and academic performance. This research will focus on how these processes unfold over time. Findings will illuminate specific forms and timing of sleep disturbances that elevate risk for negative outcomes in childhood, help identify children and families at greatest risk, and shed light on behavioral, physiological, and ecological targets for prevention and intervention.
El-Sheikh, M., Buckhalt, J., Erath, S., & Keiley, M., Sleep and Child Developmental Outcomes: Physiological and Contextual Influences. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. Grant No. R01-HL093246; 2009-2013.
AU Sleep Laboratory Session
The lab session lasts approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes. Children who participate will do the following:
Physiological Assessment (measure heart rate, breathing, skin conductance –sweating)
- The child will prepare and tell a 3 minute story about something interesting that happened to them in the past year
- Tracing a star on paper while looking at the mirror reflection
- A researcher will ask the child to complete questionnaires about their sleep, school, and family
- A standardized IQ type test
- A reaction time computer game (visual attention task)
Child Regulation and Exposure to Marital Violence Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Research is needed to identify pathways and vulnerability and protective factors in the association between marital violence, children's emotional and physiological regulation, and child functioning. If conditions and mediating variables that foster child dysfunction were better understood, prevention and remediation could be efficiently targeted at children and families at risk. Long range plans include: (a) explication of developmental trajectories associated with marital violence, children's emotional and physiological regulation, and child adjustment, cognitive functioning, and academic performance within an emotional reactivity and regulation framework; and (b) development and refinement of heuristic theoretical models to guide research, prevention, and intervention in this area.
The specific aim is to examine children's emotional and physiological reactivity and regulation as pathways and moderators in the associations between marital psychological abuse and physical violence (collectively referred to as marital aggression) and child outcomes including adjustment, cognitive functioning, and academic performance cross-sectionally and longitudinally. These associations are examined within an integrated conceptual model, namely the emotional security framework (Cummings & Davies, 1996). Two hundred and fifty-six children (ages 8-10 at T1) and their families participated in 3 waves of data collection that included a well-established laboratory procedure which examined children's cognitive processing, and emotional, physiological, and biological reactivity and regulation.
El-Sheikh, M., Buckhalt, J., & Cummings, E. M. Child Regulation and Exposure to Marital Violence. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Grant No. R01-HD046795; 2004 - 2009.
Developmental Trajectories of Children’s Sleep and Development Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)
This project examines physiological processes as mechanisms that explain the effects of marital conflict on children, and also as factors that put children at greater risk, or convey protection, in highly stressful homes, depending on children’s autonomic reactivity. We propose that marital conflict induces physiological arousal, and that for some children, particularly for highly reactive children, this arousal is sufficiently intense and long lasting to disrupt sleep and interfere with emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development. Less autonomically reactive children, and children who can recover, or calm their arousal, quickly, may be more immune to the negative effects of parental conflict. Children’s reactivity and recovery in response to staged family conflict scenes are assessed with several measures of autonomic activity, including skin conductance and vagal tone. Vagal tone is an index of heart rate variability that reflects the intensity of physiological reaction and the time needed calm after arousal. Children’s sleep is assessed with actigraph, a watch-like devise that children wear to bed and that records sleep quantity and quality. In high conflict homes, highly reactive children are expected to have more disturbed sleep, more behavior problems, more depression, and poorer academic performance in high conflict homes than do less reactive children. On the other hand, high reactivity may confer protection for children living in low conflict homes. Knowing which children are at risk because of high reactivity and stressful environments will help educators develop programs that help these children cope more effectively. The purpose of this study is to obtain a 3rd wave of data for our NSF-funded study (0339115) and its 2-yr follow-up (0623936). Both studies have yielded groundbreaking knowledge demonstrating that disruptions of an important facet of children’s biological regulation, namely sleep, can have deleterious effects on typically developing children, and highlighting the importance of the simultaneous examinations of family and sleep functioning in the prediction of child outcomes. Thus, the third wave of data will allow for enhanced testing of the conceptual model, and for the explication of developmental trajectories of psychosocial, cognitive, academic, health, and obesity outcomes in the context of sleep problems, and provides a unique opportunity to examine these relations in a diverse sample of normally developing children.
El-Sheikh, M., & Buckhalt, J. Developmental Trajectories of Children’s Sleep and Development. National Science Foundation, Grant No. 0843185 ($349,791); 2009‑2011. View Highlights of NSF Project
Childhood Stress Exposure: Physiological Mechanisms of Risk and Resilience Funded by Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station/Lindsey Foundation
Children’s exposure to family conflict and peer-related stress in the child care setting are highly prevalent, internationally recognized public health concerns. Thus, research is needed to identify vulnerability and protective factors linking childhood stress exposure with mental and physical health difficulties. The objectives of this study are to investigate health and well-being in children exposed to stress in family and peer relationships. Outcomes of interest are child psychological and social adjustment, academic competence, and physical health, including body mass index. Most importantly, this study aims to identify physiological processes that increase or decrease children’s susceptibility to negative outcomes. Physiological processes under investigation include two main components of the human stress response system: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Progress in understanding physiological processes that underlie children’s vulnerability to stress will promote the development of specific intervention goals and strategies, thereby improving health care provision for children and families.
El-Sheikh, M., Vaughn, B., Erath, S., & Buckhalt, J. Childhood Stress Exposure: Physiological Mechanisms of Risk and Resilience. Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station/Lindsey Foundation Grant ALA080-049 ($120,000); 2007 - 2010.