Specifying the links between household chaos and preschool children's development

Anne Martin, Rachel A. Razza, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Household chaos has been linked to poorer cognitive, behavioural, and self-regulatory outcomes in young children, but the mechanisms responsible remain largely unknown. Using a diverse sample of families in Chicago, the present study tests for the independent contributions made by five indicators of household chaos: noise, crowding, family instability, lack of routine, and television usually on. Chaos was measured at age 2; outcomes measured at age 5 tap receptive vocabulary, attention and behaviour problems, and effortful control. Results show that controlling for all other measures of chaos, children with a lack of routine scored lower on receptive vocabulary and delayed gratification, while children whose television was generally on scored higher on aggression and attention problems. The provision of learning materials mediated a small part of the association between television and receptive vocabulary. Family instability, crowding, and noise did not predict any outcomes once other measures of chaos were controlled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1247-1263
Number of pages17
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • chaos
  • early childhood development
  • home environment
  • television

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics


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