How do the physical and social features of the home setting affect the sleep, health, and behavior of disadvantaged, urban boys and girls who have been exposed to community and family violence? How can this knowledge be harnessed to improve the physical and psychological health of children exposed to violence and other traumatic events?
How do the physical and social features of the home setting affect the sleep, health, and behavior of disadvantaged, urban boys and girls who have been exposed to community and family violence? How can this knowledge be harnessed to improve the physical and psychological health of children exposed to violence and other traumatic events? Exposure to high rates of violence is common among children living in economically disadvantaged households and neighborhoods. This exposure is linked to a wide range of deleterious effects on the health and behavior of children, which may lead to serious problems in adulthood, but we currently do not understand the exact mechanisms responsible for these effects. For example, sleep impairment can be related to mental health problems and is one of the adverse outcomes that often accompany violence exposure, but we have not yet explored a direct link. The PIs will examine this link using a sample of 65 children, ages 8–16, from low-income neighborhoods and families, who have been referred to a mental health services agency for trauma and violence by police in Cleveland. Data will be collected at the time of referral, and then 6, 9, and 12 months after referral. At each data collection point, two home visits will be conducted. Data will include information on violence witnessed in the home and neighborhood; home setting processes such as parental monitoring, household commotion, and family routines; resources such as dedicated sleep areas and locks/window bars; spatial factors including sleeping area proximity to noise and light distraction; and temporal factors such as household members with night or rotating work shifts. Sleep patterns will be assessed using actigraphy, child and parent reports. Measures of health and behavior problems will also be collected. One notable impression received from the interviews conducted to date is the frequently chaotic nature of study participants’ family environment. The investigators’ impression is that the violence experienced by families seems to exacerbate through multiple avenues the challenges they already face given their socioeconomic status.