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Child’s Health May Be At Risk With Household Chaos

Update Date: Oct 10, 2013 09:40 AM EDT

Children between three to five are prone to developing poorer health when their lives at home surrounds them with noise, messiness, a mother with a busy schedule and a lack of order in daily routines, according to new research. 

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

Researchers reported on 3,288 mothers who were interviewed at their homes when their child was 3 and again they were 5 years old. Most of the families were low income.

In the study, the methods of chaos used by the researchers were crowding with more than one person per room, TV background noise for 5 hours a day, lack of regular bedtime for the child, noisy atmosphere, cluttered and dirty homes.

"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," said OSU.

The most common source of household chaos was television noise, with more than 60 percent of mothers reporting the television was on more than five hours a day.  Between 15 and 20 percent of households reported crowding, noise, and unclean and cluttered rooms, according to the study.

According to Dush, chaos has been associated with stress. She also adds that stress has been linked to poorer health.  Women with busy schedules may not be able to opt out of working to take their child to the doctor if needed.  This also leaves little to no room for cleaning a dirty house which may increase the possibility of a child becoming physically sick due to accumulated germs.

Studies showed that a chaotic household at age 3 was affiliated with poorer health at age 5.

"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.

In the news release, Kamp emphasized that parents should not be to blame in these situations, but instead points out the amount of dedicated time jobs require, which she believes is a valid reason for the downfall of keeping families healthy.

"What these mothers and fathers need most is jobs that allow them to maintain regular schedules and have the flexibility to deal with sick children," Dush said.  "Having to maintain two jobs is also detrimental to keeping households free of chaos.

The findings are published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.  

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