The contributory role of the family context in early childhood sleep health: A systematic review

Lauren B. Covington, Freda Patterson, Lauren E. Hale, Douglas M. Teti, Angeni Cordova, Shannon Mayberry, Emily J. Hauenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Sleep-wake regulation is established during early childhood and contributes to life-long health. The family context is critical to the development of child sleep-wake regulation. The primary aim of this systematic review was to elucidate family-level constructs (outside of bedtime parenting) that contribute to early childhood (age 0-5 years) sleep health. We identified empirical research articles that investigate these relationships through systematically searching PubMed, Web of Science, and PsycINFO databases. The transactional model of sleep-wake regulation guided the selection of family-level search terms, including socioeconomic status (SES), family structure, household chaos, marital, co-parenting, and social relationships. Sleep search terms included sleep problems, duration, timing, and variability. We searched sleep and family terms in combination with infant, toddler, or preschool developmental age. Sixteen studies satisfied criteria for inclusion. Results indicated that the presence of household chaos and poor quality marital relationships were directly associated with early childhood sleep problems and variable sleep timing. Higher marital satisfaction and the presence of household routines were positively associated with sleep duration. Several, but not all, studies showed an association between lower SES and poor child sleep health. There were no significant direct associations for family structure and limited findings for the role of perceived social support and co-parenting relationship quality. Overall, operationalization and measurement of family and sleep constructs varied across studies, decreasing our ability to make comparisons and draw robust conclusions. Future research should identify modifiable family-level factors that can be targeted, in addition to bedtime parenting, to improve sleep-wake regulation development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-265
Number of pages12
JournalSleep health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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