If there is Chaos in a Child’s Life, Behavior Problems Could Result
Brenton is a real terror in kindergarten. He often tears around the room throwing books on the floor and taking crayons or toys from other children. When given a direction by a teacher, he doesn’t comply – and seems to see the directions and commands from his teacher as funny and something to be ignored.
After the first month of school, he was referred to a psychologist for an evaluation to learn more about what his teacher could do to reduce his behavior problems and bring about more compliance.
When the psychologist interviewed his parents, she found out that both of his maternal grandparents lived in the home, along with his older sister, her boyfriend, and their baby. The psychologist also learned that his grandparents always had the television in the living room turned on – literally 24 hours a day. No one in the family could escape the background noise and the interference that came abut as a result of the constant barrage of TV shows.
The psychologist in her report didn’t blame the fact that Brenton’s home was overcrowded or that there was a TV on all the time for the boy’s behavior problems at school. However, she did point out that these two things could be related to Brenton’s behavior problems.
The psychologist who assessed Brenton may have been aware of the research on chaos and children.
Research by psychologists, particularly studies done in the past 10 years, has implicated a type of home environment in behavior problems and academic difficulties of children. And that is the chaotic household.
Studies have shown that household chaos is linked to behavior problems as well as poorer cognition, and children’s decreased ability to regulate themselves.
Developmental psychologists say that a home that is noisy, crowded, features family instability, lacks routines, and has the TV on all the time is a chaotic home. Having the TV on all the time contributes to a disruptive influence on children in some homes. But if there are other aspects of chaos, in addition to the TV constantly turned on, then the risk to children is increased.
In 2006 a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry indicated that there is a strong link between the chaos in a home and children’s behavior problems. And another study, published in the same journal three years later, confirmed that there is indeed a link between chaos and both conduct problems and a lower IQ in children.
More recently, in the journal Early Child Development and Care, it was found that in homes where there is a lack of routines children tend to score lower on receptive vocabulary tests and have less ability to delay gratification. This study zeroed in on having a television always turned on and found that children who live in families in which the TV is always on score higher on aggression and have more attention problems. It seems very clear from other studies that young children exposed to daily doses of television appear to be at considerable risk for attention problems.
Obviously, not every home in which young children are allowed to watch television is chaotic. However, there is much to be learned from the chaos research.
Chaos, in all of its forms, according to the accumulating research on chaos, has a detrimental effect on young children. This means that you should evaluate your home to see if any of the aspects of chaos are in play.
Is there too much noise in your home? Are there too many people living in your home? Is there too much instability? Is there a lack of structure and routines? And is the TV on too much of the time?
By eliminating as many aspects of chaos as you can, you will be contributing to some important strengths in your children. As indicated in the research cited in this column, reduce the chaos and you are likely to improve your child’s behavior, give him or her the ability to increase their IQ, reduce their aggression, increase their attention span, and improve their receptive vocabulary.