Healthy Kids? Keep Order, Routine in Their Lives

Something new to blame us for?  A new study has found that disorder,noise and a lack of routine in the household can severely affect young children's health.  But the study also found that a mother's "chaotic work life" also has a huge effect.

Who among us does not have a chaotic work life?

“Children need to have order in their lives,” Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, told newswise.com. “When their life is chaotic and not predictable, it can lead to poorer health.”

Though the study involved mostly low-income families, and the results showed mothers who were more impoverished reported significantly higher levels of chaos, the findings can still be extrapolated to families with more money.

“I don’t think that the findings would be different in a middle-class sample – chaos is bad for children from any background,” she said.

But, she added, most middle-class families can avoid the same level of chaos seen in the most impoverished families. "We’re not talking about the chaos of your kids being over-involved in activities and the parents having to run them from one place to another. This harmful chaos is much more fundamental.”

“But 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.”

In the study researchers used several measures of household chaos, according to newswise.com, including crowding (more than one person per room), TV background noise (TV was on more than 5 hours a day), lack of regular bedtime for the child, and a home rated as noisy, unclean and cluttered by the interviewer.

"The study also included a measure of the mother’s work chaos, which included stress caused by the work schedule, difficulty dealing with child care problems during working hours, lack of flexibility to handle family needs and a constantly changing work schedule," the Web site noted.

Results showed that higher levels of household chaos and mothers’ work chaos when their children were age 3 were linked to lower ratings of child health at age 5, even after taking into account initial child health and other factors that may have had an impact.

Surprisingly, the greatest chaos in a child's life in the study was found to be noise from television.

Is the reverse true?  Poor child health leads to chaos?  Not so much, the researchers found.  

How does household chaos lead to sicker children? Kamp Dush told newswise.com that chaos has been linked to stress, and "stress has been shown to lead to poorer health. Women with inflexible work schedules may not be able to take their children to the doctor when needed. And a dirty house may increase exposure to toxins and germs."

But the study's intent is not to put blame on parents. “These mothers can’t help it that their jobs don’t give them the flexibility to deal with sick kids," newswise.com quotes Kamp Dush. "They can’t afford a larger house or apartment to deal with overcrowding. With their work schedules, they often don’t have time to keep a clean home and they don’t have the money to spend on organizational systems or cleaning services used by middle-class families to keep their homes in order.”

So maybe those of us who have more advantages -- even with chaotic jobs -- should step back and just try to ensure that our kids have peace and quiet and order in their lives, even with all the juggling that most women (and men) must do.




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