Several of our friends have foster children or have adopted children. Quite a few of these children come from home lives that range from outright dangerous to unclean and chaotic. Though it’s generally true that children are more at risk in dangerous homes, they can also be in danger in chaotic homes as well.

New research has revealed that children who live in chaotic homes have poorer health overall when compared to children who live in stable, quieter homes. Lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, Claire Kamp Dush, said that the results of the research are proof that kindergarten-aged children need order and routine to develop properly and stay healthy.

"Children need to have order in their lives," Kamp Dush said. "When their life is chaotic and not predictable, it can lead to poorer health." She goes on to say that she doesn’t think the findings would be different in other socioeconomic situations. “Chaos is bad for children from any background," she said. However Kamp Dush also commented that “most middle-class families can avoid the same level of chaos that we saw in the most impoverished families. We're not talking about the chaos of your kids being overinvolved in activities and the parents having to run them from one place to another. This harmful chaos is much more fundamental."

The data for the study came from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, and it included 3,288 mothers who were interviewed at their homes by a trained interviewer when their child was three and again when he or she was five years old. The research also included information about the mother’s work chaos. The children’s health was rated by the mothers as either excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. The results showed that chaotic home and maternal work environments while the children were three resulted in poorer health by the time the child turned five. Preexisting medical conditions and other factors were taken into account during the health check.

According to the study, the most common source of household chaos was television noise. Over 60% of the mothers who were interviewed during the study reported that the television was on for over five hours every day. Other chaotic factors included crowding, noise, and clutter. About 15-20% of households reported these types of chaos instead of T.V. noise.

Source: Ohio State University (2013, October 9). Household chaos may be hazardous to a child’s health. ScienceDaily.