It seems that bad dreams in pre-school going children is less prevalent. This was revealed by a study conducted by researchers at University of Montreal
Another significant finding of the same study is that when nightmares do exist, they are trait-like in nature, and are associated with personality characteristics measured as early as five months.
Published in the journal SLEEP, a report about the study reveals that the researchers came to these conclusions after sampling 987 children in the Province of Quebec, who were assessed by their parents at the 29-month, 41-month, 50-month, five-year and six-year mark.
Led by Valerie Simard, under the direction of Dr. Tore Nielsen, the research team asked parents in a about the frequency of their child's bad dreams, without requiring that they attempt to judge whether or not awakenings occurred.
The results showed that a higher mother's rating of the child's anxiety at 17 months was the best of 10 psychological predictors of bad dreams at 29 months, followed by the father's rating. Mother's ratings of the child's difficult temperament at five months was found to be associated with a small, but significant, increased risk of having bad dreams at 29 months.
The researchers also noticed that children with consistent bad dreams were rated by their mothers as having more difficult temperaments at five months and 17 months, as being more emotionally disturbed at 17 months, and as being more anxious at 17 months than were children having no bad dreams.
They were also rated by their fathers as more anxious at 17 months.
When compared to children with consistent bad dreams, kids having no bad dreams were found to be more frequently restless in a day at five months, more likely to cry and be restless in general at five months, more difficult to calm at 17 months, and more frequently restless in a day at 17 months.
"Little attention is paid to optimising definitions or measures of bad dreams among the very young," wrote the authors.
"These results support the suggestion that young children who develop chronic bad dreams are similar to adult nightmare sufferers, for whom links with general distress and emotional psychopathology are well established. Carefully targeted treatments of early anxiety symptoms, as well as promotion of early, protective parental practices may thus help prevent a cascade of changes leading, over the years, to bad dreams, nightmares, and associated psychopathologies," they added.