07 August 2020
Although frequent disturbing dreams, including bad dreams and nightmares, have been repeatedly associated with poor psychological well-being in adults, considerably less information exists on their psychosocial correlates in children. Recent empirical and theoretical contributions suggest that the association between disturbing dream frequency and psychosocial adaptation in children may differ as a function of children's negative emotionality. The current study assessed the moderating effect of very early negative emotionality (17 months of age) in the relation between disturbing dream frequency and psychosocial maladjustment (i.e., externalizing + internalizing behaviors) in a sample of 173 11-year-old children. Mixed-model analyses revealed that disturbing dream frequency was associated with some internalizing behaviors but that the association between disturbing dream frequency and most externalizing behaviors was moderated by early negative emotionality. The latter result indicates that the relation between disturbing dream frequency and externalizing behaviors was significant in 11-year-old children showing moderate negative emotionality early in life, but particularly strong in those children with high early negative emotionality. Whereas, a moderating effect of early negative emotionality was not found between disturbing dream frequency and internalizing behaviors, the findings highlight the more specific role of early emotional negativity as a developmental moderator for the link between disturbing dreams and externalizing behaviors in children. The results are discussed in light of recent models of disturbed dreaming production.