Perceived sleep quality predicts aggressive offending in adolescence and young adulthood

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BACKGROUND: There are profound consequences when developing youth do not get adequate sleep. Adolescents who experience poor sleep may be more likely to engage in offending behavior. While there is a documented association between the number of hours youth sleep and their likelihood of offending, it is unclear how youths' perceptions of their sleep quality contribute to offending. Further, scholars have yet to rigorously examine the relation between sleep problems and offending in young adulthood, a developmental stage, which is both critical for desistance and in which sleep may play an important role. METHODS: Using a sample of 1,216 justice-involved male youth, this study uses within-individual longitudinal methods (fixed-effects Poisson regression models) to examine the relation between changes in perceptions of sleep quality and changes in offending behavior from ages 13 to 24. RESULTS: Increases in sleep problems are associated with increases in offending, particularly aggressive/person-related offenses, for both adolescents and young adults. This holds true even after controlling for time-varying anxiety, substance use, and violence exposure. CONCLUSIONS: Improving sleep quality may be critical for reducing aggressive behavior in at-risk adolescents and young adults. Interventions that address sleep quality, and not just quantity, may be particularly beneficial.

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Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines

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