Quality over quantity? Using sibling comparisons to examine relations between sleep quality, sleep duration, and delinquency

Eric J. Connolly, Dylan B. Jackson, Daniel C. Semenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: A growing body of research suggests that adolescents with problematic sleep patterns are more likely to engage in externalizing and delinquent behaviors. Few studies, however, have examined the role of between- and within-family effects on this association to establish whether poor sleep is related to delinquency after controlling for familial confounding. Objective: The current study examines the relationship between self-reported restless sleep, sleep duration, and delinquency from ages 16–19 in a population-based sample of U.S. youth. Methods: Data from full siblings from the Children and Young Adult sample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979) (CNLSY) are analyzed. Negative binomial regression models and sibling comparisons are estimated to assess between- and within-family effects of sleep on delinquency during ages 16–17. Sibling comparison cross-lagged models are then fitted to the data to examine whether sibling differences in sleep are related to sibling differences in changes in delinquency from ages 16–19. Results: Siblings with higher levels of self-reported restless sleep were more likely to report higher levels of delinquency at ages 16–17, net of observable covariates and unobservable familial confounders. Sibling differences in restless sleep at ages 16–17 were also associated with increases in delinquency at ages 18–19 after controlling for familial confounding and temporal stability in both sleep and delinquent behavior. Conclusions: Findings suggest that perhaps sleep quality, rather than sleep duration, should be the primary target for intervention/prevention programming efforts for adolescent delinquency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114053
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Delinquency
  • NLSY
  • Siblings
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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