Sleep problems are common and associated with externalizing behavior problems in young children, particularly among young children with developmental delay (DD). The aims of the current study, which was a secondary data analysis of 2 previously conducted randomized controlled trials, were to assess whether parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) led to decreases in child sleep problems and whether initial sleep problems moderated the effect of PCIT on child behavior.
The study participants were 44 children (M = 49.19 months, SD = 13.1) with DD or borderline DD and with co-occurring clinically significant levels of externalizing behavior problems and their mothers (M = 35.9 years, SD = 7.3). These participants were randomly assigned to either an immediate treatment group or a waitlist control group.
Findings revealed a significant direct effect of PCIT on decreases in sleep problems. Additionally, moderation analyses revealed that lower levels of child sleep problems at pretreatment were associated with greater improvements in observed child compliance compared with higher levels of child sleep problems at pretreatment.
This study extends previous findings by providing support for the preliminary efficacy of PCIT in reducing sleep problems in children with DD and borderline DD and highlighting the role of sleep problems as a factor associated with differential treatment effects in behavioral parenting intervention research.