The psychological care of abused children in the child protection system is an urgent issue in Japan. Child abuse has a serious impact on children’s emotion and behavior, but there is virtually no evidence about how child abuse affects sleep, which is closely related to behavioral and emotional control. In this study, we sought to identify sleep habits and suspected sleep disorders among abused children and adolescents admitted to residential care facilities in Japan and to investigate their association with emotional and behavioral problems.
The study targeted 273 abused children and adolescents (age range: 4 to 15 years) who had been admitted to a residential care facility in Japan. They were assessed by physicians and other personnel at facilities with expertise in childcare and abuse. Respondents completed a brief sleep questionnaire on the incidence of problematic sleep habits and suspected sleep disorders as well as a questionnaire on emotional and behavioral issues.
Approximately 40% of the abused children and adolescents had some sleep-related symptoms at bedtime and waking, and 19% had suspected sleep disorder. Abused children with emotional and behavioral problems had a significantly higher incidence of suspected sleep disorders than abused children without such problems, and this incidence was particularly high among those with antisocial behavior and depressive behavior. Our predictive model also showed that antisocial behavior and depressive behavior were significant predictors of suspected sleep disorders.
Careful assessment and appropriate therapeutic intervention for sleep disorders are required in abused children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral problems.