Executive functions can be adversely affected by contextual risks in the home environment including chaos and parenting challenges. Furthermore, household chaos negatively influences parenting practices. Few studies, however, have examined the role of parenting in the association between household chaos and child executive functions.
Using a sample of 128 school-aged children (mean = 61.9 months, SD = 2.0, range 58–68 months) and their mothers, the present study examined direct and indirect effects (via parental responsiveness) of household chaos on child executive functioning. Multi-measures were used including performance-based assessments, behavioural observations, questionnaires, and video-home tours.
Household chaos had both a direct effect on child executive functions (β = − .31, 95% CI [− .58, − .04]) and an indirect effect (β = − .05, 95% [− .13, − .01]) via parental responsiveness. Further, the indirect effect was only significant for household instability.
These findings indicate that parental responsiveness may be compromised by household chaos, with implications for the executive functions of school-aged children. Preventative strategies are needed to improve the stability in the home and strengthen parenting practices.