Sleep Problems among Mothers of Youth Stopped by the Police

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Police stops are the most common form of criminal justice exposure in the USA, and are particularly common among urban youth, with 23% of them reporting a stop by the age of 15. While recent work has begun to illuminate the health impacts of police stops for these youth, little is known about the health consequences of youth police contact for the mothers of youth stopped by the police. The current study employs data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), a sample of urban, at-risk youth and their families. Multivariate logistic regression models are conducted to examine the link between youth police stops and sleep difficulties among mothers. Additional analyses examine whether the features and consequences of police stops are associated with sleep difficulties among mothers. The findings indicate that mothers with youth who have experienced police stops are more than twice as likely to report both depression- and anxiety-related sleep difficulties compared to their counterparts. Furthermore, stops with certain features—including those characterized by intrusiveness, high trauma, and high stigma—emerged as consistently significant predictors of maternal sleep difficulties. The findings suggest that mothers who are vicariously exposed to police contact via their children are a vulnerable group. Given the non-random distribution of police contact across the population of youth, with police contact concentrated among children of color, the findings suggest that police contact may exacerbate racial inequalities in sleep, which may itself contribute to racial disparities in broader mental and physical health outcomes.

Jackson, Dylan B., and Kristin Turney. 2021. “Sleep Problems Among Mothers of Youth Stopped by the Police.” Journal of Urban Health 98: 163–171.