Examining the effects of household chaos on child executive functions: A meta-analysis

by Krysta Andrews, Leslie Atkinson, Madeleine Harris and Andrea Gonzalez

• Household chaos describes a home environment characterized by disorganization (e.g. clutter, crowding, ambient noise) and instability (e.g. lack of routines, frequent moves, changes in caregivers)

• Chaotic homes can have a negative impact on many aspects of child development including their higher cognitive processes – known as executive functions – including inhibition, working memory, flexible thinking etc

• We examined 35 studies with approxmately 16,500 children and found that household chaos has a small, but significant overall effect on child executive functions.

• The effect of household chaos was stronger when parents reported their child’s executive functions (as compared to when the child completed executive function tasks directly)

• Also, household instability had a stronger effect on child executive functions as compared to household disorganization.

• These results highlight the importance of future interventions supporting greater stability and order within homes to promote healthy cognitive functioning in children