Parental Incarceration and Child Sleep and Eating Behaviors

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine whether parental incarceration is significantly associated with a number of sleep and eating behaviors among offspring during early childhood.

Study design

Data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study, an at-risk sample of parents and their offspring, were employed to test this possibility. Both maternal and paternal incarceration history were examined as predictors of whether children manifested high levels of the following 7 health behaviors: sleep problems, short sleep duration, salty snack consumption, starch consumption, sweets consumption, soda consumption, and fast food consumption. Logistic regression techniques were used to carry out the analyses.

Results

Both maternal and paternal incarceration significantly increased the odds of a number of risky sleep and eating behaviors during childhood. Ancillary analysis also revealed that the predicted probability of exhibiting multiple risky behaviors across the sleep and eating domains was twice as large among children whose parents had both been incarcerated, relative to children whose parents had not been incarcerated.

Conclusions

Parental incarceration may have important implications for the sleep and eating behaviors of offspring. Both scholars and practitioners may, therefore, want to consider the possible negative repercussions of parental incarceration for the sleep and eating behaviors of children, and the potential for these high-risk health behaviors to compromise the health and well-being of children as they age.

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