Crowding, noise, and a lack of routine in a household may lead to poor health in 3- to 5-year-olds, according to a recent study.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years of age) go through developmental milestones, such as playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving (like crawling, walking, or jumping), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These stages of early childhood are when the world starts to open up for children as they become more independent. Parental guidance is essential for preschoolers to stay healthy and develop properly. Children who are surrounded by household chaos are more likely to suffer bad health outcomes than their peers during this stage.
Published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers collected data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study that included 3,288 mothers who were interviewed at their homes by a trained interviewer. The parents were interviewed twice — once when their child was 3 and again when their child was 5.
“Household chaos was measured by crowding (more than one person per room), TV background noise (TV was on more than 5 hours a day), lack of regular lack of regular bedtime for the child, and a home rated as noisy, unclean and cluttered by the interviewer,” read an Ohio State University press release.
In this study, the most frequently reported source of household chaos was television noise. Sixty percent of mothers were found to have the television on for more than five hours a day. Crowding, noise, and unclean and stuffed rooms accounted for 15 and 20 percent respectively, Medical Xpress reports.
A mother’s work chaos was also used as a measure for the study. Work chaos was measured by stress caused by a mother's inconsistent work schedule, difficulty dealing with child care problems during working hours, and lack of flexibility to handle family needs. A third of the mothers in the study had an inflexible work schedule and 11 percent reported working multiple jobs. The researchers found that the more impoverished a mother was, the higher the levels of household chaos.
The mothers were also asked to rate their child’s health at ages 3 and 5, on a scale, as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor.
The researchers found a strong correlation between household chaos and children’s health. Households with higher levels of chaos and work chaos were linked to lower ratings of child health at age 5, even after accounting for initial child health and other factors that may have had an impact.
The study authors believe that the results would be the same for a middle-class sample size too. These findings may help middle-class families avoid the same level of chaos. A more structured and predictable lifestyle can act as a protective factor against poor health for children.
According to the National Poverty Center, 15.1 percent of people in the United States live in poverty. Twenty-two percent of children under the age of 18 live in impoverished households.