Having a mother who has a chaotic work life or a home life which is marked by disorder, noise and a lack of routine has been linked with poor health in children by the time they are five years old.
Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, said that the study showed the importance of order and routine in helping Kindergarten-age kids stay healthy and develop to the best of their potential.
Dush, who conducted the study with Kammi Schmeer, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State, and Miles Taylor, assistant professor of sociology at Florida State University, said that the study involved mostly low-income families, and the results showed mothers who were more impoverished reported significantly higher levels of chaos.
Data came from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, and included 3,288 mothers who were interviewed at their homes by a trained interviewer when their child was 3 and again when he or she was 5 years old. Most of the parents were unmarried and low-income.
The researchers used several measures of household chaos: 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.
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.
The study is published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.