Date of Award
Master of Arts
Disordered sleep affects 20-40% of children and adolescents. Such disorders can result in academic difficulties, emotional regulation difficulties, and decreased immune system functioning. Behavioral treatments are the empirically supported treatment for pediatric sleep problems. With most children getting yearly well-child visits, pediatric medical professionals are in an optimal position to identify sleep difficulties and refer children for treatment. However, research suggests that medical professionals receive limited formal education in disordered sleep, and they more frequently recommend medication over behavioral interventions. Therefore, referrals to psychologists for behavioral treatments may often be warranted. The factors that influence medical professionals’ referral decisions have not been investigated. The current study investigated factors implicated in referral behaviors including pediatric medical professionals’ knowledge, screening patterns, treatment preferences, and referral patterns in the area of pediatric behavioral disordered sleep. A total of 65 medical professionals were recruited to complete an online survey to investigate these factors. Results indicated that participants in the current study demonstrated significantly higher sleep knowledge and rates of screening than what was found in a previous study. Regarding predictors of sleep knowledge, taken together, specialty, years in practice, and screening behaviors significantly predicted sleep knowledge scores. Additionally, sleep knowledge of participants who indicated that a referral was necessary when presented with a hypothetical case example of a child presenting with disordered sleep was significantly lower than the sleep knowledge of those who did not refer. Further, rates of referral were significantly lower than reported in previous research. Confidence in managing sleep problems and rates of providing behavioral recommendations were also explored. Overall, results of the current study indicate that pediatric medical professionals may benefit from additional training in the area of pediatric behavioral sleep and increased awareness of appropriate referral sources. Further exploration into the influence of screening behaviors and treatment preferences on referral behavior is necessary.
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