Teti receives grant to study infant sleep, coparenting, and infant development

Douglas M. Teti, professor of human development and family students, psychology, and pediatrics at Penn State, has received a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his study, “Coparenting, Infant Sleep and Infant Development." This project is one of three federally funded projects in Teti’s SIESTA research program, a program that has evolved from a small pilot project funded by Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute in 2005.

Teti, who is also head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, will evaluate the effects of an adaptation of Family Foundations, a coparenting intervention program for expectant parents that helps foster attitudes and skills related to positive family relationships.

In one arm of the study, families will experience Family Foundations as originally formulated. In the second, families will receive an adapted version that emphasizes coparenting in infant sleep contexts. The third arm will serve as controls.

“Although sleep regulation across the first year proceeds well for many infants, for other infants that is not the case, and estimates of sleep problems among infants and preschoolers range between 25 and 33 percent,” said Teti.

Dysregulated infant sleep is predictive of poor parent sleep, and chronic sleep disruption can place families in turmoil, with consequences for the marital and coparenting relationship.

Furthermore, mothers reporting early coparenting distress are at risk for personal distress and poor bedtime and nighttime parenting, which in turn predicts infant sleep problems and insecure infant attachment, Teti said.

“The rationale for this study is twofold. First, recent findings indicate that poor coparenting at one month postpartum predicts persistent infant-parent co-sleeping across the first year, elevated maternal depressive symptoms, emotionally unavailable bedtime parenting, and insecure infant-mother attachments,” he added.

Secondly, while Family Foundations as originally developed has been successful in improving coparenting, marital adjustment and overall parenting quality, it gives little specific attention to coparenting in infant sleep contexts, which findings from Teti’s "Study of Infants’ Emergent Sleep TrAjectories" (SIESTA) identify as critical to parent and infant outcomes in the first year.

Assessments of coparenting and parenting in infant sleep contexts; parental adjustment to infant sleep behavior; choices about sleep arrangements; infant and parent sleep quality; and infant socio-emotional functioning will serve as outcomes.

Project SIESTA is a longitudinal study of links between infant sleep quality during the first two years and infant socioemotional development; how parenting of infants at bedtime and night time affects the development of infant sleep quality over time; and the intersection of parenting practices, parenting quality, and infant sleep in predicting infant developmental outcomes and stress reactivity across the first two years of life.

Project SIESTA, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health, also examines how parental behavior at bedtime and night time predicts infant functioning during the day.

The grant was provided by the NICHD under award 1R01HD088566-01A1. Funding for other projects in the SIESTA Research Program were provided by awards 5R01HD087266 and 5R01HD052809.