College of ACES
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Register now for the 2018 ACES Family Academies

Published May 23, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois has announced dates for the 2018 ACES Family Academies. The family-friendly event will be held July 12 and 13 on the College of ACES campus in Urbana.

“ACES Family Academies is a two-day, hands-on educational and intergenerational alumni event that happens right here at the College of ACES,” says Tina Veal, director of alumni relations for the college. “Do you have a child, grandchild, or niece/nephew, age 8 to 13, who would love learning about robotics, food science, money, drones, bees, or wild birds? Family Academies has over 20 sessions during which you and your children can learn hands-on from faculty and staff in the College of ACES.”

The ACES Alumni Association began ACES Family Academies in 2014 to engage alumni to bring the next generation of Illini to learn about the College of ACES, live in the dorms, and eat in the dining hall – all while having fun, making new friends, and reconnecting with college friends back on campus with their families. 

“What do I love about this event? The College of ACES continues to showcase that we are a family,” Veal says. “Alumni and the public join us to celebrate the one thing we have in common – agriculture and the love for our college and university. And for alumni, there really is nothing better than that feeling you get when you return ‘home’ to share these experiences.”

ACES alumni and the public can register now through June 15. Visit http://go.illinois.edu/ACESfamilyacademies18 for more information and to sign up. Cost is $195 per person. Veal says anyone interested in volunteering can contact her directly at vealt@illinois.edu.

News Source:

Tina Veal, 217-333-5127

Long-term study shows crop rotation decreases greenhouse gas emissions

Published May 23, 2018
corn and soybean

URBANA, Ill. – Many farmers grow corn and soybean in rotation to avoid the continuous corn yield penalty, but now there’s another reason to rotate. Scientists at the University of Illinois have provided further evidence that rotating crops increases yield and lowers greenhouse gas emissions compared to continuous corn or soybean.

“I think farmers in today’s world are looking for reasons to avoid growing in a monoculture. They’re looking to diversify and rotate their systems. If they’re doing that partially out of a concern for the environment, well, it lowers greenhouse gasses. And it could potentially result in a substantial yield increase,” says Gevan Behnke, research specialist and doctoral candidate in Maria Villamil’s research group in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.

There are other studies out there looking at the link between crop rotation and greenhouse gas emissions, but Behnke’s study is unique in a couple of ways. First and most significantly, he sampled greenhouse gas emissions from fields that had been maintained as continuous corn, continuous soybean, rotated corn-soybean, or rotated corn-soybean-wheat, under tillage and no-till management, for 20 years.

“These long-term plots are very stable systems. Sometimes you don’t see the impacts of rotation or tillage for years after those practices are imposed. That’s one of the highlights of this study,” Behnke says.

Comparing the corn phase of a corn-soybean rotation to continuous corn showed an average yield benefit of more than 20 percent and a cumulative reduction in nitrous oxide emissions of approximately 35 percent.

Nitrous oxide is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential—how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere—almost 300 times higher than carbon dioxide. It is a byproduct of the process of denitrification, during which bacteria in the soil break nitrate down into inert nitrogen gas. Not surprisingly, nitrous oxide emissions are tied to the rate and timing of nitrogen fertilizer application.  

“Nitrous oxide levels were high at the beginning of the season and lower at the end. Farmers usually apply fertilizer in the spring and it gets taken up by the crop throughout the season,” Behnke says. “A typical farmer would expect these results.”

For soybean, which doesn’t get fertilized, rotation did not affect nitrous oxide emissions compared to continuous soybean. Rotation did increase soybean yield by about 7 percent, however.

Tillage did not impact greenhouse gas emissions, but the practice gave corn an edge of about 15 bushels per acre over corn in no-till management. Behnke says that effect may not apply to farms outside the study area, however. That’s because of the other unique aspect of the research: the location.

The study was conducted at the Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center near Monmouth. With some of the most productive soils in the world, Behnke says corn yields are higher there than almost anywhere else. And greater yields mean more surface residue.

“If you talk to people that work at the Monmouth research center, they’ll say it’s sometimes  difficult to plant into the long-term no-till. It’s like planting into thick mulch,” Behnke says. “Other places aren’t as blessed when it comes to biomass and organic matter return to the soil.” He adds that other studies comparing tillage and no-till management in corn don’t typically show large differences in terms of yield.

The article, “Long-term crop rotation and tillage effects on soil greenhouse gas emission and crop production in Illinois, USA,” is published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment [DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2018.03.007]. Behnke’s co-authors include Stacy Zuber, Cameron Pittelkow, Emerson Nafziger, and Maria Villamil, all of whom were in the Department of Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I at the time of publication. Funding for the research was provided by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (2011-68002-30190).

Across research studies, popular artificial sweeteners don’t raise glucose levels

Published May 22, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – For many people with diabetes or those trying to control their weight, non-nutritive or artificial sweeteners are often considered a safe and healthy option to help avoid sugar consumption. They add a sweet taste to food or beverages, while adding few (or no) calories to the diet.

There is well-documented research on the health risks of sugar consumption in terms of child and adult obesity, but studies are ongoing to provide conclusive evidence that non-nutritive sweeteners offer benefits toward weight management or other health benefits.

Among the concerns is whether non-nutritive sweeteners raise glycemia— the glucose level in the blood. Two food science and human nutrition researchers at the University of Illinois analyzed current research on four of the most popular non-nutritive sweeteners to find a conclusive answer.

Results from their study show that non-nutritive sweetener consumption doesn’t elevate blood glucose levels.  

“It has been assumed in the literature for a long time that non-nutritive sweetener consumption wouldn’t affect your fasting blood glucose levels, but there’s never been a meta-analysis to determine if this is actually true,” explains Alexander Nichol, co-author of the study and master’s student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at U of I. “I see it all the time in research papers where people will mention that non-nutritive sweeteners don’t affect blood glucose levels, and now we hope our study can be used as a reliable reference.”

Nichol and colleague, Maxwell Holle, wanted to conduct a systematic review of current research findings on the use of non-nutritive sweeteners in humans. They wanted to look at the glycemic response specifically to the non-nutritive sweeteners, so they only included studies in which participants had fasted before consuming the sweeteners. In addition, the sweeteners could not have been consumed as part of another beverage or food in the study.

“A lot of research will focus on giving you the non-nutritive sweetener in addition to a meal, and the additional calories can really impact the glycemic response. So we excluded a lot of studies that added a non-nutritive sweetener to a food or a drink that had additional calories,” Holle, a doctoral candidate in food science and human nutrition at U of I, explains.

In total, the researchers’ analysis included 29 trials, with a total of 741 participants. The sweeteners represented in the studies included aspartame, saccharine, steviosides, and sucralose. The meta-analysis tracked blood glucose levels over 210 minutes after the consumption of a non-nutritive sweetener.

They found that these sweeteners, overall and at various time points, didn’t affect glycemia—didn’t raise glucose levels. While they did see a decline in glycemia for some participants (depending on additional characteristics such as diabetic state, age, etc.), Nichol says this is most likely because of the prolonged fasting, not because of the sweetener consumption.

The findings have more value for ongoing studies looking at the use of non-nutritive sweeteners, but Nichol says the study can offer some confidence to those concerned about these sweeteners. “Our paper shows that if people drink something artificially sweetened alone, their blood glucose levels will not change. In our research and in others’ labs, we are continuing to look at sweetener consumption along with a meal to see how they affect post-meal glycemia. That is different than what we’re showing in the paper because those are two different states that the body can be in.”

The paper, “Glycemic impact of non-nutritive sweeteners: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials,” is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Co-authors include Alexander D. Nichol, Maxwell J. Holle, and Ruopeng An, all of the University of Illinois. Nichol is a master’s student and Holle a doctoral candidate in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at U of I.

Weekly Outlook: Soybean prices focus on trade and weather

Published May 21, 2018

URBANA, Ill. - Soybean prices moved lower last week despite the positive outlook in the USDA's May WASDE report. The report, released on May 9, projected that stocks of U.S. soybeans at the end of the current marketing year would total 530 million bushels, slightly less than generally expected. University of Illinois agricultural economist Todd Hubbs explains that the recent choppy price pattern reflects uncertainty in trade negotiations, the large Brazilian soybean crop, and weakening South American currencies. 

November soybean futures prices moved in a band between $10.20 and $10.50 after the release of the surprisingly low March Prospective Planting report placed soybean acreage at 89 million acres. Prices broke lower on May 7 and continued to show weakness through May 18. The July – November price spread moved into negative territory on May 7 and reflects near-term uncertainty regarding trade prospects and planting issues.

“An additional level of uncertainty is the recent strengthening of the U.S. dollar to the Brazilian real which saw Brazilian export prices move on par with U.S. Gulf export prices,” Hubbs says. “Brazilian production estimates of 4.3 billion bushels are equal to last year’s record crop with some reports indicating the potential for even higher levels. The rapid drop in the Brazilian real last week brought increased sales by Brazilian farmers. Weekly exports of U.S. soybeans face increased competition from Brazil.”

Currently, soybean exports are ahead of the pace needed to meet the projection of 2.065 billion bushels for the 2017-18 marketing year. As of May 17, soybean export inspections total 1.677 billion bushels. Cumulative Census Bureau export estimates from September 2017 through March 2018 exceeded weekly export inspections by 42 million bushels. If the same margin exhibited at the end of March continued through this period, exports through May 17 equaled 1.719 billion bushels.

According to Hubbs, with 15 weeks remaining in the marketing year, 23.7 million bushels per week are necessary to meet the USDA projection. Over the last six weeks, soybean export inspections averaged 22.9 million bushels per week but varied with a low of 16.4 million bushels on for the week ending April 12 and a high of 32.8 million bushels for the week ending May 17.  As of May 10, 397 million bushels of soybean had been sold for export but not shipped. This number exceeds the 346 million bushels necessary to reach 2.065 billion bushels based off of current sales figures and estimated export levels through May 17.

“A note of caution is warranted in the sales figures as China currently sits on 75 million bushels of unshipped sales, and a 35 million bushel sales cancellation occurred on May 18. Recent developments in trade negotiations place a positive outlook for the remainder of the marketing year, but the uncertainty is not alleviated,” Hubbs adds.

Soybean crush continues to provide support for soybean prices this year. April crush estimates by NOPA came in at 161.06 million bushels. Census Bureau estimates of crush during this marketing year run approximately 6 percent above NOPA estimates. If this pace continued, the Census Bureau crush estimate for the marketing year equals 1.365 billion bushels through April, 5.8 percent above last year’s total over the same period.

The current estimate implies that the crush during the remaining four months of the year must total 625 million bushels, 2.1 percent higher than the crush of a year ago, to reach the USDA projection of 1.99 billion bushels. Soybean meal exports continue to be strong due to issues in Argentina, the world’s leading meal and oil exporter. Argentine production estimates sit at 1.43 billion bushels for the 2018 crop year, down 691 million bushels from last year’s production.

“Issues associated with soybean crushing in Argentina continue to crop up, with a possible worker strike, port issues, and a weakening currency all looking to impact their potential for soybean crush over the next few months. Soybean crush shows no signs of weakening this summer in the U.S,” Hubbs explains.

Early concerns about the 2018 soybean crop due to a slow start to the planting season have mostly dissipated. Concerns were mainly alleviated by the USDA's weekly Crop Progress report that indicated that planting progress in the 18 major soybean producing states came in at above average pace on May 13 with particularly strong performance in the eastern Corn Belt.

Still, there should be some concern about crop progress, acreage allocations, and yield prospects in northern growing areas where planting progress sat well behind the average pace as of May 13. The USDA's Acreage report to be released on June 29 will also reveal any acreage changes from intentions published in the March survey.

Hubbs concludes that weather and trade issues will dominate price movements in the soybean market over the next few months. A resolution to the trade dispute with China would provide support for both new and old crop soybean prices, but uncertainty remains. Planting progress, crop conditions, and weekly export levels remain important variables to monitor as we move into the summer.  

Discussion and graphs associated with this article are available here: https://youtu.be/wUG6yCk-_eA

Family food involvement at preschool age positively influences eating habits

Published May 21, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – The preschool age marks a key developmental time period for children to develop food-related behaviors, and getting kids involved with meal planning and preparation can positively influence those behaviors long-term.

Participating in cooking is associated with healthier dietary intake for school-aged children, adolescents, and adults but new research from the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois shows a relationship exists for preschool-aged children, as well.

Food involvement at age 3 predicts healthier dietary intake at age 4 and could set the stage for healthier food behaviors, according to a new a study authored by Jessica Jarick Metcalfe, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the U of I.

“‘Family food involvement’ describes the parent’s report of how much their child participates in meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation [cooking],” Metcalfe explains.

In the study, kids who had high levels of food involvement at age 3 ate more fruits and vegetables and less fast food at age 4. “This finding lends support to the notion that food involvement can act as a causal factor to affect positive change in dietary intake,” Metcalfe says.

The study, recently published in Appetite, and co-authored by Barbara Fiese, director of the Family Resiliency Center and professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the U of I, examined the relationship between “family food involvement” and dietary intake of 3- and 4-year-olds. 

The study analyzed data from waves 1 and 2 of the Family Resiliency Center’s STRONG Kids 1 project, a comprehensive study that examines how genetics, environment, and dietary intake contribute to the development of childhood weight, obesity, health behaviors, and health beliefs.

Researchers performed cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses to see if family food involvement at age 3 predicted healthier dietary intake at age 4. “We wanted to see if family food involvement was concurrently related to healthier dietary intake at age 3, as well as age 4,” Metcalfe says.

The study found that 3-year-olds who had higher levels of food involvement—participating in meal planning, shopping, and cooking—also ate more fruits and vegetables. The study found similar results for 4-year-old participants but also found a decreased consumption of fast food among those participants.

“Perhaps most importantly, food involvement at age 3 predicted healthier dietary intake at age 4. Kids who had high levels of food involvement at age 3 also ate more fruits and vegetables and less fast food at age 4,” Metcalfe says.

Data also shows an association with children’s age and gender. Girls were more likely than boys to have high levels of food involvement, and older children tended to have slightly higher food involvement than younger children.

The researchers involved in the study say some successful interventions and programs exist to increase food involvement and cooking skills among older school-aged children but more efforts should be made to develop programs for preschool-aged children that focus on increasing food involvement and introducing children to age-appropriate food preparation skills and activities.

The paper, “Family food involvement is related to healthier dietary intake in preschool-aged children” is published in Appetite and is available online [DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.03.021].  Co-authors include Jessica Metcalfe and Barbara Fiese.

This research was funded, in part, by grants from the Illinois Council for Agriculture Research to Kristen Harrison (PI), the University of Illinois Health and Wellness Initiative to Barbara Fiese and Sharon Donovan, the United States Department of Agriculture (Hatch 793-328) to Barbara Fiese (PI), and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture as part of the AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge (Grant Number: 2011-67001-30101). The STRONG Kids Team includes Kristen Harrison, Kelly Bost, Brent McBride, Sharon Donovan, Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Juhee Kim, Janet Liechty, Angela Wiley, Margarita Teran-Garcia, and Barbara Fiese.

Jessica Jarick Metcalfe was supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program grant (2011-67001-30101) to the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Illinois researchers find better ways to predict energy value in feed ingredients

Published May 21, 2018
Hans Stein
Hans Stein

URBANA, Ill. – To formulate cost-effective livestock diets based on energy, it's vital that the energy content of feed ingredients is known as accurately as possible. Researchers at the University of Illinois are working on more accurate ways to predict the energy value of ingredients.

Hans Stein, professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I, says that the feed components presented in composition tables usually don't add up to 100 percent, which indicates that not all energy-contributing components are accounted for.

"Analyzing all chemical components in feed ingredients is challenging," Stein says. "However, we believe that being able to analyze all energy-contributing components in a feed ingredient is likely to yield more accurate estimates for the energy value in that ingredient."

A team of researchers led by Stein set out to test the hypothesis that if all chemical components in the ingredient were accounted for, gross energy – calculated by adding values from all energy-containing components in feed ingredients – would equal analyzed gross energy.

They studied ten ingredients that varied in fiber concentration and composition: corn, wheat, soybean meal, canola meal, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn germ meal, copra expellers, sugar beet pulp, synthetic cellulose, and pectin.

In addition to the traditional analyses for components such as crude protein, starch, fiber, and fat, Stein's team also analyzed the ten ingredients for tannins, sinapine, glucosinolates, glycerol, fructo-oligosaccharides, and a number of soluble carbohydrates.

Their hypothesis didn't hold true for all ingredients. The calculated gross energy was 8 percent greater than the analyzed value for corn, 12 percent greater for pectin, and 12 percent less for DDGS and sugar beet pulp. Stein says this is likely due to inaccuracies in measurement, as well as insufficient knowledge about the energy value of components that are analyzed less frequently.

"Some energy-contributing components may be analyzed as a different component of the feed ingredient. It's also possible that the gross energy values we use for lignin, tannins, sinapine, and other components in the ingredient are inaccurate."

However, the calculated gross energy values for wheat, soybean meal, canola meal, corn germ meal, copra expellers, and synthetic cellulose were within 4 percent of analyzed gross energy for these ingredients, indicating that the analyzed components appear to be accurate.

"You don't get the complete picture on energy content without analyzing all energy-contributing components, in particular low-molecular-weight carbohydrates," Stein says.

"Our data indicate that at least for some ingredients, it's possible to predict gross energy accurately if traditional analyses are complemented by additional analyses, primarily of soluble carbohydrates and lignin."

In another phase of the experiment, the team simulated apparent ileal digestibility and apparent total tract digestibility of the ingredients using an in vitro procedure. They found that the fiber components that are traditionally analyzed, acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber, may not be the best predictors of the fiber value in ingredients.

"Instead of ADF and NDF, we recommend analyzing insoluble fiber and total dietary fiber to estimate digestibility, because these values are better correlated with digestibility of dry matter and organic matter," Stein says.

The paper, "Analysis for low-molecular-weight carbohydrates is needed to account for all energy-contributing nutrients in some feed ingredients, but physical characteristics do not predict in vitro digestibility of dry matter," is published in the Journal of Animal Science. Co-authors were Diego Navarro of Illinois and Erik Bruininx and Lineke de Jong of Agrifirm Innovation Center. Agrifirm Innovation Center of Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, provided funding for the study.

News Source:

Hans Stein, 217-333-0013

News Writer:

Jennifer Roth, 217-202-5105

Innovative technologies and policies can make agriculture environmentally sustainable

Published May 17, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – Agriculture faces increasing demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel from a growing population under the looming threat of climate change. Advances in seed technologies, equipment, and crop management offer considerable promise for increasing agricultural productivity and meeting these demands. But a key challenge for agriculture is to meet growing demands while protecting our natural resources.

That challenge is the motivation behind a new article published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. In the article, environmental and agricultural economists examine ways to integrate the agricultural, transportation, and electricity sectors and identify research priorities that will help move agriculture forward sustainably.  

“Ultimately, land is the resource in fixed supply on the planet; therefore, we have to figure out how to best use the land to meet diverse needs,” says Madhu Khanna, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) Distinguished Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois and lead author of the study.

“We need to explore opportunities for ‘sustainable intensification’ which allow us to increase productivity while reducing environmental harm. More research is needed, including looking at ways in which the recent emergence of big data-enabled precision agriculture can intensify agricultural production sustainably.”

Land for agricultural production has increased since World War II and is accompanied by more input use and intensification of land use by using fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, tillage, and irrigation, among other technology advances. This surge in productivity has ushered in many environmental problems for water quality, climate, and biodiversity.

In the article, the researchers identify the need to build capacity for systems-based approaches that consider both the environment and agriculture. One strategy is to closely connect the values of the environment to consumers along with the costs to producers to design objectives that further the quality of the environment.  

Khanna adds, “We need to be looking not just at what the technologies are and what their environmental benefits are but also at their economic effects so that we can weigh the trade-offs involved.”

The study also suggests future research should explore integrating data on soil quality, climate, land use, economic effects, and farmer decisions to develop strategies for sustainable land use. Alongside those strategies, the researchers say, more effective and implementable policies for reducing non-point pollution and more insight into what drives farmer behavior need to be considered.

However, strategies to use natural resources more sustainably while meeting growing societal demands for food and fuel production won’t be win-win opportunities for everybody, according to Khanna. The costs of adopting alternative technologies and their environmental benefits will vary across locations and this calls for site-specific approaches, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

“There could also be negative effects on some groups and benefits to others – we have to design policies that achieve conservation goals at least cost for society,” Khanna explains.

The study concludes by calling for more integrated approaches that link economics to the agricultural and biological sciences to provide innovative solutions to the grand challenge of feeding 9 billion people sustainably in the coming decades.

The study, “Sustaining our natural resources in the face of increasing societal demands on agriculture: directions for future research,” is published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. Co-authors include Madhu Khanna, Scott M. Swinton, and Kent D. Messer. Khanna is the ACES Distinguished Professor in Environmental Economics in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at U of I, and associate director of the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment at the U of I.

Sleep better, parent better: Study shows link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting

Published May 17, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – Research has shown that consistently not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, can put you at risk for a number of health conditions. But how does sleep, or the lack of it, affect how you parent?

A new study from Kelly Tu, a human development and family studies researcher at the University of Illinois, and colleagues, looks at the link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting during late adolescence. Findings show that mothers who don’t get enough sleep or who take longer falling asleep have a greater tendency to engage in permissive parenting—parenting marked by lax or inconsistent discipline.

Results also show that sleep quality may be especially important for African-American mothers and mothers from socioeconomically disadvantaged households.

“Short and disrupted sleep patterns are common among parents, especially parents of young children, and can affect their mental and physical health and daily functioning,” explains Tu, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I. “Extending this work beyond young children, we were curious as to how sleep affects the parenting of adolescents.”

During adolescence—11 to 18 years of age—parental involvement is still an important contributing factor in how well kids are adjusting socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. Tu explains that research has shown a link between permissive parenting and adolescents’ vulnerability to problematic or risky behaviors.

Those risky behaviors during adolescence could include affiliating with deviant or delinquent peers, engaging in delinquent behavior (vandalism or skipping school), or substance use and abuse, Tu explains. “Given that permissive parenting may heighten the risk of adolescents’ risky behaviors, we wanted to take a step back to ask what’s driving these permissive parenting behaviors, and to see if sleep could be a contributing factor.

“We found that when mothers were not receiving enough sleep, or receiving poor quality sleep, it had an effect on their levels of permissiveness with their adolescents. It may be that they’re more irritable, experiencing impaired attention, or so over-tired that they are less consistent in their parenting. But on the plus side, we also find that mothers who are receiving adequate sleep are less likely to be permissive with their adolescents.”

To examine maternal sleep duration and quality, 234 mothers were asked to wear actigraphs—a wristwatch-like device, think of a Fitbit—at bedtime for seven consecutive nights. The actigraph detects movement throughout the night and determines whether there is a disruption in sleep. Information about race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status of the mothers was also collected.

Adolescents, averaging 15 years of age, then completed questionnaires (subscales of the Parent Behavior Inventory) about how they perceived their mothers’ parenting. They rated behavior on a scale of “likely or not likely to.” Example statements included, “Lets me off easy when I do something wrong,” “Can’t say no to anything I want,” or “Doesn’t check up to see whether I have done what she told me.”

Findings showed that mothers who had longer durations of sleep or who were able to fall asleep easily, had adolescents who reported lower levels of permissive parenting.  

Race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status also emerged as significant factors in linking sleep quality with permissive parenting. African-American mothers and mothers from lower socioeconomic households who experienced higher quality sleep (higher sleep efficiency, fewer night wakings) had lower levels of permissive parenting. Yet, for these same mothers, poorer sleep quality resulted in higher levels of permissive parenting.

“Studies have documented sleep disparities among ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals, and our findings are consistent with that. For socioeconomic status, we may need to consider the day-to-day stressors or challenges that these mothers are facing,” Tu explains. “Mothers from lower socioeconomic households may be encountering additional stressors or financial hardships that could be affecting their sleep and/or parenting.

“But what’s exciting is that we also find positive effects of high quality sleep on parenting behaviors for ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers,” Tu says.  

The findings from the study, Tu says, point out the need for self-care and the importance of sleep.

“Sleep is an easier point to intervene in terms of changes individuals can make—things like not drinking caffeine or exercising too close to bedtime, establishing a bedtime routine, and thinking about the sleep environment,” she says. “Parents may be thinking about these things when it comes to their children, but it’s just as important for parents to get enough sleep as it may impact their family interactions and children’s well-being.” 

The paper, “The link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting during late adolescence” is published in the Journal of Sleep Research. [DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12676] Co-authors include Kelly M. Tu, Lori Elmore-Staton, Joseph A. Buckhalt, and Mona El-Sheikh.

The research was supported by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (grant/award number: R01-HD046795; awarded to Mona El-Sheikh). This study was conducted at Auburn University.  

News Source:

Kelly Tu
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