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Objective: Various research has shown that mothers of sleep-disturbed young children experience poorer physical and mental health, show more symptoms of depression or anxiety, and demonstrate a higher level of stress. Coping strategies and self-efficacy might play an important role in this context. In the present study we aimed to investigate psychosocial health, coping, and the sleep-related self-efficacy of parents participating in an Internetbased treatment for sleep-disturbed young children (six months to four years of age).
Methods: N=199 mothers and N=197 fathers answered questionnaires regarding psychosocial health, coping, and sleep-related self-efficacy before, immediately after, and three months after treatment. Two intervention conditions (written information only vs. additional telephone support) were compared to a waiting-list control condition. The treatment essentially addressed the child´s sleep situation but also included information on parental coping and psychosocial health.
Results: Both parents showed impaired psychosocial health (depression, compulsiveness) and more maladaptive coping (rumination, self-blame) before treatment. Feelings of aggression were reported by mothers only. More psychopathological symptoms in both parents were related to more maladaptive coping strategies and less sleep-related self-efficacy. Adaptive coping was associated with higher sleep-related self-efficacy, while maladaptive coping was related to lower sleep-related self-efficacy in mothers only. Mothers in both treatment conditions improved their psychosocial health (e.g., depression, somatization, anxiety, aggression) and their ability to cope in some scales (increase: relaxation, trivialization; decrease: rumination) after treatment. For fathers, only a few changes were observed. The impaired sleep-related self-efficacy of both parents improved with treatment. Personal telephone support rarely affected the results.
Conclusion: Teaching parents to treat their child´s sleep problem can improve impairments in psychosocial health, coping, and self-efficacy predominantly in mothers.