"Long before it's in the papers"
June 04, 2013


Get them some sleep, scientists say of young delinquents

Oct. 12, 2010
World Science staff

Ju­ve­nile de­lin­quen­cy among high school stu­dents may be partly linked to lack of sleep, re­search­ers have found based on a new stu­dy.

Al­though a handful of past stud­ies have sug­gested such a link could ex­ist, lit­tle de­tailed in­forma­t­ion ex­ists. The new anal­y­sis found that more se­ri­ous forms of de­lin­quen­cy ap­pear to be­come more com­mon in rela­t­ion to the sev­er­ity of youngsters’ sleep de­fi­cit.

Ju­ve­nile de­lin­quen­cy among high school stu­dents may be partly linked to lack of sleep, re­search­ers have found based on a new stu­dy. (Pho­to cour­tesy Ve­ra Krat­och­vil)

The study re-examined 15-year-old da­ta from the Na­tional Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Study of Ad­o­les­cent Health, a fed­er­ally funded pro­ject that sur­veyed ad­o­les­cent health in the Un­ited States in rela­t­ion to a va­ri­e­ty of risky be­hav­iors.

The sur­vey sam­ple used for the study on sleep and de­lin­quen­cy en­com­passed 14,382 high school stu­dents—half ma­le, half fema­le, 63.5 pe­r­cent white.

Stu­dents who slept sev­en or few­er hours nightly re­ported “sig­nif­i­cantly more prop­er­ty de­lin­quen­cy,” such as van­dal­ism or theft, than stu­dents who slept the rec­om­mended eight to 10 hours, the au­thors of the new study re­ported. The findings ap­pear in the Oct. 10 is­sue of the Jour­nal of Youth and Ad­o­les­cence.

Those who slept five or few­er hours per night, meanwhile, “re­ported sig­nif­i­cantly more vi­o­lent de­lin­quen­cy,” wrote the re­search­ers, Sa­man­tha Clink­in­beard and col­leagues at the Uni­vers­ity of Ne­bras­ka at Oma­ha.

“Lack of sleep has been linked to a wide range of neg­a­tive de­vel­op­men­tal out­comes,” but “largely over­looked among re­search­ers in­ter­est­ed in ad­o­les­cent de­lin­quen­cy,” the group wrote.

Al­though the study could­n’t demonstrate that in­suffi­cient snooz­ing caused de­lin­quen­cy rath­er than, for ex­am­ple, the oth­er way around, “the find­ings sug­gest that sleep is an im­por­tant, and over­looked, di­men­sion of de­lin­quent be­hav­ior,” the re­search­ers wrote. They ar­gued that this as­pect de­serves fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­t­ion.

The study did­n’t de­ter­mine wheth­er in­som­nia, home en­vi­ron­ment or oth­er fac­tors caused the sleep short­age pos­sibly linked to de­lin­quen­cy. But a smaller stu­dy, pub­lished in last De­cem­ber’s is­sue of the Jour­nal of Ge­net­ic Psy­chol­o­gy, found that “pos­sible in­som­ni­a” pre­dicted smok­ing, de­lin­quen­cy and drinking-and-driving among high school­ers.

“Sleep and oth­er rel­e­vant health be­hav­iors [should] be con­sid­ered in the con­text of more com­pre­hen­sive ap­proaches to de­lin­quen­cy pre­ven­tion and in­ter­ven­tion,” Clink­in­beard and col­leagues wrote.

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Juvenile delinquency among high school students may be partly linked to lack of sleep, researchers have found based on a new study. Although a few past studies have suggested such a link could exist, little detailed information exists. The new analysis found more serious forms of delinquency become more common in relation to the severity of their lack of sleep. The study re-examined 15-year-old data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a federally funded study that surveyed adolescent health in the United States in relation to a variety of risk-taking behaviors. The survey sample used for the study on sleep and delinquency encompassed 14,382 high school students, half male, half female, and 63.5 percent white. Students who slept seven or fewer hours nighly reported “significantly more property delinquency,” such as vandalism or theft, than students who sleep a recommended eight to 10 hours, the authors of the new study reported, describing their findings in the Oct. 10 issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Those who slept five or fewer hours per night, on the other hand, “reported significantly more violent delinquency,” wrote the researchers, Samantha Clinkinbeard and colleagues at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “Lack of sleep has been linked to a wide range of negative developmental outcomes,” but “largely overlooked among researchers interested in adolescent delinquency,” the group wrote. Although the study couldn”t prove that lack of sleep caused delinquency rather than, for example, the other way around, “the findings suggest that sleep is an important, and overlooked, dimension of delinquent behavior,” the researchers added. They argued that the sleep aspect deservers further investigation. The study didn’t determine whether insomnia, home environment or other factors caused the sleep shortage possibly linked to delinquency. But a smaller study, published in last December’s issue of the Journal of Genetic Psychology, found that “possible insomnia” predicted smoking, delinquency and drinking-and-driving among high schoolers. “Sleep and other relevant health behaviors be considered in the context of more comprehensive approaches to delinquency prevention and intervention,” Clinkinbeard and colleagues wrote.