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Children’s Emotional Expressivity After Sleep Restriction Forecasts Social Problems Years Later

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A Correction to this article was published on 01 March 2022

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Sleep patterns affect children’s socioemotional functioning in ways that may predict long-term social problems. However, precise mechanisms through which these effects occur remain unexplored and thus unknown. Building on findings in adults, the current study examined whether changes in children’s facial expressions of emotion after sleep restriction predict social problems concurrently and/or longitudinally. At time 1, 37 children (mean = 9.08 years, SD = 1.3) completed in-lab emotional assessments both when rested and after two nights of sleep restriction. Participants’ parents provided reports of their child’s social problems at time 1 and approximately 2 years later (time 2; mean = 11.26 years, SD = 1.6). Children who exhibited less positive facial expressions in response to positive images after sleep restriction evidenced greater social problems longitudinally, even when controlling for earlier social problems. Results suggest that inadequate sleep may undermine children’s social functioning via alterations in emotional expression which may become more salient with age.

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Correspondence to Candice A. Alfano.

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This research was supported by a grant (#R21MH099351) from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) awarded to the first author and a grant (#1813574) from the National Science Foundation awarded the last and first authors.

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The data for this work can be found here:

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SPSS version 27.0

Ethics Approval

All procedures were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Houston and the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments and ethical standards. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Houston.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Informed Consent

was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Handling Editor: Aric Prather

The original online version of this article was revised of having incorrect values of Table 3.

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Alfano, C.A., Kim, J., Cifre, A.B. et al. Children’s Emotional Expressivity After Sleep Restriction Forecasts Social Problems Years Later. Affec Sci 3, 383–388 (2022).

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