Factors affecting nightmares in children: parents' vs. children's ratings

Michael Schredl, Leonie Fricke-Oerkermann, Alexander Mitschke, Alfred Wiater, Gerd Lehmkuhl
European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 2009, 18 (1): 20-5

OBJECTIVE: The present study investigated the relationship between daytime symptomatology and nightmare frequency in school-aged children by eliciting daytime symptoms and nightmare frequency from children directly in addition to questionnaires completed by their parents.

METHODS: A sample of 4,834 parents and 4,531 of their children (age range: 8-11 years) completed each a sleep questionnaire and the strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ).

RESULTS: The results of the study clearly indicate that there is an underestimation of nightmare frequency in the parents' ratings compared to the children's data (effect size: d = 0.30) and the closeness between influencing factors and nightmare frequency is considerably higher for the data based on the children's responses; the proportion of explained variance was twice as high.

CONCLUSIONS: Therefore, it seems important for research and clinical practice to not to rely on parents' information but to ask the children about the occurrence of nightmares.

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