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Reviewing a Journal Published Research Report

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Reviewing a Journal Published Research Report. Family Stress and Adolescents’ Cognitive Functioning: Sleep as a Protective Factor
Family stress has been recognized as one of the key influencers in determining the quality and quantity of sleep in adolescents. On the other hand, improved quality of sleep has been associated with better cognitive functioning. The study selected for appraisal evaluated various parameters regarding family stress and their effects on quality of sleep. Further, intellectual ability was also assessed to find out the effect of family conflicts on the cognitive ability of individuals. Sleep is an important bio-regulator factor that is required for the normal physiological functioning of the body. Sleep is associated with increased synthesis of growth hormone and provides the body with coping mechanisms to combat various types of stress. However, the quality and quantity (depth) of sleep is subjected to change due to various environmental cues and stressors.

The environmental cues (triggers) include the day/night cycle. On the other hand, stressors include anxiety, conflicts, work pressure and negative emotions. Adolescents are exposed to various types of family stressors. These include parental conflicts, harsh behavior (harsh parenting) and parental psychological control. Adolescents’ are usually deprived of sleep due to social and academic contexts. Therefore, they violate the circadian rhythms associated with sleep-wakefulness cycle, which itself acts as a triggering factor for stress development in them.

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Hence, family conflicts are expected to increase their burden of stress, which can have negative consequences upon their health. The study was undertaken to evaluate the association patterns of family conflicts with the status of sleep. Moreover, the study also evaluated, whether sleep acts as a coping strategy, in improving the intellectual ability of adolescents, under the context of family stress. Thus, the study wanted to relate whether sleep acts as a positive regulator or negative regulator of family stressors on the cognitive functioning of adolescents.

The study evaluated whether adolescents are at greater or lesser risk of poor cognitive functioning, under the context of family stress and effects of sleep as a moderating factor in cognitive functioning was also evaluated. The methodology included well-validated assessment tools for measuring family stress and the quality of sleep in adolescents. Data was collected in between 2012 and 2013 from the fourth wave (one arm) of the large longitudinal project which is examining relations between family functioning and youth development. The participants were from the elementary schools in the Southeastern United States. Individuals who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorders were not included in the study. This is because such psychological constraint could have added bias to the study. Data from only such individuals were considered, whose parents were two years together (for initiation of family conflicts). 199 individuals (93 boys and 106 girls) were finally selected for the study. The individuals belonged to European American ethnicity (66%) and African American ethnicity (34%). There were various confounding factors related to the study, these included income status and marital status of parents (legality of parenthood).

The statistical variables considered for evaluation was correlation coefficient. The plan of the study was to associate the family factors which were significantly correlated with the cognitive abilities. Moreover, how the correlation coefficient of sleep with cognitive abilities were also studied. The hypothesis which was assumed included the rejection of the null hypothesis. This means if a family factor is significantly correlated to sleep, it will either be positively correlated or negatively correlated with the detection of depression. Null hypothesis contends that there is no significant correlation between these factors. If any such relations are revealed, it would be attributed due to chance factors of random sampling (p>0.05). However, the alternate hypothesis contends that family factors may significantly be associated with sleep. Any such relations will not be attributed to chance factors of random sampling (p<0.05).

A positive correlation coefficient indicated that increasing the magnitude of response to an independent variable, will also increase the magnitude of the other correlated variable. On the other hand, a negative correlation coefficient indicated that increasing the magnitude of response in an independent variable will decrease the magnitude of the other correlated variable. Sleep was assessed by actigraph, while the intellectual ability was assessed through WJ-III tool and both these tools are reliable and extensively validated. The family conflict measures were also standardized tools and baseline features indicated that parental conflict, harsh behavior and psychological control were positively correlated with both parents. This indicated that adolescents were exposed to stressors, due to behavioral actions of both their parents.

Marital conflict was significantly positively correlated to harsh parenting (p<0.001), while it was negatively correlated with the amount of sleep in adolescents (however p value was not significant). The study showed that efficiency of sleep was positively correlated (p<0.001), to the amount of sleep time (in minutes). Intellectual ability was also negatively correlated to intellectual ability (however p value was not significant). It was also noted that higher sleep efficiency was positively correlated with intellectual ability. However, it is noted that when values were taken +2.68 from the mean values for sleep efficiency, then the efficiency of sleep was negatively correlated to harsh parenting. To conclude, parental conflicts did impact sleep efficiency and decreased sleep efficiency may lead to cognitive deficits. Thus, increasing the depth and quality of sleep, may act as a protective factor for preserving cognitive abilities, under the context of family stress.

The future study might incorporate multiple regression analysis to determine the variables (family conflict) which impact sleep and intellectual ability in the presence of one another, by considering a holistic model.

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