Gerontology Logo Parental abuse during childhood seems to have a major impact in later life. A recent study now suggests that individuals who suffered from parental abuse as a child experience poor sleep quality in old age. Also emotional abuse in early life appeared connected with poorer relationships in adulthood.

During the study, data about 877 adults age 60 years and above was taken from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. This analysis claimed that early parental emotional abuse is linked with a higher number of sleep complaints in old age. During the year 1995, around 3,500 adults had to answer questions regarding their childhood. After a decade, they were asked follow-up questions about sleep, relationships and emotional distress.

“A negative early attachment continues to exert an influence on our well being decades later through an accumulation of stressful interpersonal experiences across our lives. The impact of abuse stays in the system. Emotional trauma may limit a person’s ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world,” highlighted said Cecilia Y. M. Poon, MA, the study’s lead author.

To analyze emotional abuse, participants were made to reveal how often their mother and father insulted or swore at them, sulked or refused to talk to them, stomped out of the room, did or said something to spite them, threatened to hit them, or smashed or knocked something in anger. During the second round of interviews, volunteers were asked that in the past 30 days, how often they had trouble falling asleep, woke up during the night and had difficulty going back to sleep, woke up too early in the morning and were unable to get back to sleep, and felt unrested during the day no matter how many hours of sleep they had. On completion of the investigation, it was concluded that lack of support may be associated with stress and hence hampers sleep quality.

The study appears in the current issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences.