Doctor of Philosophy
Reid, Graham J.
Most children cease napping between 2- and 5-years-old. Little is known about the predictors or outcomes related to this cessation, or the interrelation of different components of nap behavior. Four empirical studies were conducted to investigate the developmental importance of napping among preschool children.
Studies 1 and 2 used a large, longitudinal sample of Canadian children to investigate the predictors (Study 1) and outcomes (Study 2) related to early nap cessation. Early nap cessation was defined as stopping daytime sleep before three years old. In Study 1, parents reported on their own, child, and family functioning at two timepoints (0-1 years-old and 2-3 years-old). At 2-3 years-old, ~11% of children had ceased napping. Early nap cessation was predicted by demographic (e.g., female sex), perinatal (e.g., birthweight ≥ 2500 grams), developmental (e.g., more developmental milestones achieved), and sleep-related (i.e., longer nighttime sleep duration) variables. Study 2 presented the evaluation of behavioral and language outcomes related to early nap cessation. After controlling for the predictors identified in Study 1, and other demographic predictors of these outcomes (e.g., income, parental education), early nap cessation predicted higher receptive language and lower anxiety at 4-to-5-years-old.
Studies 3 and 4 used representative cross-sectional samples. Study 3 presented the development and psychometric properties of two scales of parents’ nap beliefs – The Parents’ Nap Beliefs Scale and the Reasons Children Nap Scale. In independent pilot (N = 201) and replication samples (N = 702) these scales demonstrated excellent reliability and validity. Study 4 presented an empirical approach to classifying nap behavior (i.e., Latent Profile Analyses) and a prediction of nap behavior using parental beliefs and previously established correlates of nap behavior. Nap behavior was associated with parental beliefs, parents’ own nap behaviors, family functioning, and child nighttime sleep problems.
Nap cessation appears to be a developmentally normative process for Canadian preschool children. This process is complex and marked by high intra- and inter-child variability. This complexity is best understood using a socioecological approach which accounts for developmental, demographic, child-parent, and child-environmental factors. Key future directions include replicating these results in non-North American countries and implementing more longitudinal studies.
Summary for Lay Audience
Most 2-year-old children have a daytime nap, while few 5-year-olds nap. Though nearly all children eventually stop napping, little is known about: (1) why some children stop napping at younger ages than others; (2) how children who stop napping when younger may be different than their peers; or (3) how different components of nap behavior might be related (like nap duration, timing, and frequency). Four studies were conducted to investigate these questions.
Studies 1 and 2 used a large sample of Canadian children and their parents, at multiple timepoints, to investigate “early nap cessation,” that is, children who stop napping before their third birthday. Study 1 reported that about 11% of children stop napping early. Early nap cessation was predicted by demographic (e.g., child is a girl), perinatal (e.g., child having a normal birthweight), developmental (e.g., child meeting more developmental milestones), and sleep-related (i.e., child sleeping for longer at night) factors. Study 2 investigated the outcomes related to early nap cessation. Children who stopped napping early understood more words and had lower (better) anxiety levels at 4-to-5-years-old than their peers.
Study 3 presented the development and evaluation of two scales of parents’ nap beliefs – The Parents’ Nap Beliefs Scale and the Reasons Children Nap Scale. Both these scales had excellent statistical properties across two samples. Study 4 presented a statistics-based definition to understand related components of nap behavior (e.g., duration, timing, frequency). Parents’ beliefs about their children’s naps, parents’ own nap behaviors, family functioning, and children’s nighttime sleep problems predicted nap behavior.
Children’s transition from daytime and nighttime sleep to exclusively nighttime sleep appears to be developmentally normative for Canadian preschool children. However, this process is complex and varies greatly from child-to-child. We can begin to make sense of this complexity by understanding the developmental and demographic factors related to napping. Then, we can build on this understanding by incorporating the interactions between children and their parents, and children and their environments. More studies are needed to understand (1) how the results of this dissertation differ in non-North American countries and (2) how nap behavior may differ over time.
Newton, Adam T., "The Developmental Importance of Napping in Preschool Children" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8969.
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