Intergenerational Effects of Discrimination on Black American Children’s Sleep Health

Madeleine F. Cohen, Anne L. Dunlop, Dayna A. Johnson, Alexis Dunn Amore, Elizabeth J. Corwin, Patricia A. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Greater exposure to racial/ethnic discrimination among pregnant Black American women is associated with elevated prenatal depressive symptomatology, poorer prenatal sleep quality, and poorer child health outcomes. Given the transdiagnostic importance of early childhood sleep health, we examined associations between pregnant women’s lifetime exposure to racial/ethnic discrimination and their two-year-old children’s sleep health. We also examined women’s gendered racial stress as a predictor variable. In exploratory analyses, we examined prenatal sleep quality and prenatal depressive symptoms as potential mediators of the prior associations. We utilized data from a sample of Black American women and children (n = 205). Women self-reported their lifetime experiences of discrimination during early pregnancy, their sleep quality and depressive symptoms during mid-pregnancy, and their children’s sleep health at age two. Hierarchical linear multiple regression models were fit to examine direct associations between women’s experiences of discrimination and children’s sleep health. We tested our mediation hypotheses using a parallel mediator model. Higher levels of gendered racial stress, but not racial/ethnic discrimination, were directly associated with poorer sleep health in children. Higher levels of racial/ethnic discrimination were indirectly associated with poorer sleep health in children, via women’s prenatal depressive symptomatology, but not prenatal sleep quality. Clinical efforts to mitigate the effects of discrimination on Black American women may benefit women’s prenatal mental health and their children’s sleep health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4021
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • discrimination
  • early childhood sleep health
  • prenatal depressive symptoms
  • prenatal sleep quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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