Early Exposure to Environmental Chaos and Children's Physical and Mental Health.
ABSTRACT: Environmental chaos has been proposed as a central influence impeding children's health and development, with the potential for particularly pernicious effects during the earliest years when children are most susceptible to environmental insults. This study evaluated a high-risk sample, following 495 low-income children living in poor urban neighborhoods from infancy to age 6. Longitudinal multilevel models tested the main tenets of the ecobiodevelopmental theory, finding that: (1) numerous distinct domains of environmental chaos were associated with children's physical and mental health outcomes, including housing disorder, neighborhood disorder, and relationship instability, with no significant results for residential instability; (2) different patterns emerged in relation to the timing of exposure to chaos, with more proximal exposure most strongly associated with children's functioning; and (3) the intensity of chaos also was a robust predictor of child functioning. Contrary to expectations, neither biological vulnerability (proxied through low birth weight status), maternal sensitivity, nor maternal distress moderated the role of chaos. Rather, maternal psychological distress functioned as a pathway through which environmental chaos was associated with children's functioning.
Project description:This study informs the social determinants of child health by exploring an understudied aspect of children's social contexts: chaos. Chaos has been conceptualized as crowded, noisy, disorganized, unpredictable settings for child development (Evans, Eckenrode, & Marcynyszyn, 2010). We measure chaos at two levels of children's ecological environment - the microsystem (household) and the mesosystem (work-family-child care nexus) - and at two points in early childhood (ages 3 and 5). Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3288), a study of predominantly low-income women and their partners in large US cities, we develop structural equation models that assess how maternal-rated child health (also assessed at ages 3 and 5) is associated with latent constructs of chaos, and whether there are important reciprocal effects. Autoregressive cross-lagged path analysis suggest that increasing chaos (at both the household and maternal work levels) is associated with worse child health, controlling for key confounders like household economic status, family structure, and maternal health status. Child health has little effect on chaos, providing further support for the hypothesis that chaos is an important social determinant of child health in this sample of relatively disadvantaged children. This suggests child health may be improved by supporting families in ways that reduce chaos in their home and work/family environments, and that as researchers move beyond SES, race, and family structure to explore other sources of health inequalities, chaos and its proximate determinants may be a promising avenue for future research.
Project description:Evidence suggests that household chaos is associated with less optimal child outcomes. Yet, there is an increasing indication that children's experiences in childcare may buffer them against the detrimental effects of such environments. Our study aims were to test: (1) whether children's experiences in childcare mitigated relations between household chaos and children's cognitive and social development, and (2) whether these (conditional) chaos effects were mediated by links between chaos and executive functioning. Using data from The Family Life Project (n = 1,235)-a population-based sample of families from low-income, rural contexts-our findings indicated that household disorganization in early childhood was predictive of worse cognitive and social outcomes at approximately age five. However, these relations were substantially attenuated for children attending greater childcare hours. Subsequent models indicated that the conditional associations between household disorganization and less optimal outcomes at age five were mediated by conditional links between disorganization and less optimal executive functioning.
Project description:We tested the hypothesis that household chaos would be associated with lower child IQ and more child conduct problems concurrently and longitudinally over two years while controlling for housing conditions, parent education/IQ, literacy environment, parental warmth/negativity, and stressful events.The sample included 302 families with same-sex twins (58% female) in Kindergarten/1st grade at the first assessment. Parents' and observers' ratings were gathered, with some collected over a two-year period.Chaos varied widely. There was substantial mother-father agreement and longitudinal stability. Chaos covaried with poorer housing conditions, lower parental education/IQ, poorer home literacy environment, higher stress, higher negativity and lower warmth. Chaos statistically predicted lower IQ and more conduct problems, beyond the effects of other home environment factors.Even with other home environment factors controlled, higher levels of chaos were linked concurrently with lower child IQ, and concurrently and longitudinally with more child conduct problems. Parent self-reported chaos represents an important aspect of housing and family functioning, with respect to children's cognitive and behavioral functioning.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Excess screen media use is a robust predictor of childhood obesity. Understanding how household factors may affect children's screen use is needed to tailor effective intervention efforts. The preschool years are a critical time for obesity prevention, and while it is likely that greater household disorder influences preschool-aged children's screen use, data on that relationship are absent. In this study, our goal was to quantify the relationships between household chaos and screen use in preschool-aged children. METHODS:A cross-sectional, online survey was administered to 385 parents of 2-5 year-olds recruited in 2017. Household chaos was measured with the Confusion, Hubbub and Order Scale (i.e., the chaos scale), a validated, parent-reported scale. The scale consists of 15 items, each scored on a 4-point Likert scale. Final scores were the sum across the 15 items and modeled as quartiles for analyses. Parents reported their children's screen use for nine electronic media activities. Adjusted linear and Poisson regression were used to model associations between household chaos and children's total weekly screen use, screen use within one hour of bedtime and screen use in the bedroom. RESULTS:Children averaged 31.0 (SD?=?23.8) hours per week with screens, 49.6% used screens within one hour of bedtime and 41.0% used screens in their bedrooms. In adjusted regression models, greater household chaos was positively associated with weekly screen use (P?=?0.03) and use of screens within one hour of bedtime (P?<?0.01) in a dose-dependent manner. Children in the fourth versus the first quartile of household chaos were more likely to use screens in their bedroom (P?=?0.03). CONCLUSIONS:Greater household chaos was associated with increased total screen use as well as screen use behaviors that are related to disrupted nighttime sleep. Findings suggest that household chaos may be an obesity risk factor during the preschool years because of such effects on screen use, and highlight the need to consider household chaos when implementing home-based obesity prevention programs for young children.
Project description:Previous studies suggest that the roots of school dropout (a) can be established early in life, (b) are likely to involve multilevel factors (home, child, classroom) operating prior to and during the elementary school years, and (c) can be identified by 3rd grade. The decision to drop out of school is thus a dynamic developmental process that can begin with disengagement in elementary school. Yet few studies have examined the multilevel factors that might contribute to children's early disengagement from school. In the present study, we examined associations between household chaos (i.e., disorganization and instability) from birth to age 5 and student (dis)engagement in third grade. We also examined positive parenting in early childhood (6-60 months) and child self-regulatory skills at kindergarten as potential mediators in this pathway. Participants were 1,097 children who participated in the Family Life Project, a longitudinal study of the development of children living in underresourced high poverty rural areas. Study questions were addressed using structural equation models. Results indicated that, even after taking into account a considerable number of covariates, early positive parenting and children's self-regulatory skills were viable process mechanisms through which early household disorganization, but not instability, was linked to student (dis)engagement in third grade. Findings are discussed with respect to the multilevel proximal forces at play in children's risk for early disengagement from school. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To address calls for a resilience-informed approach to understand the cause and prevention of childhood obesity, the current study aims to investigate the independent and interactive associations between household chaos, maternal emotional responsiveness, and eating behavior in early childhood. METHOD:A sample of (n = 108) families of 18- to 24-month-olds completed self-report surveys and consented to home visits as part of the larger STRONG Kids 2 (N = 468) study. Videotapes of family mealtimes were collected during home visits and coded for observed maternal emotional responsiveness. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing maternal emotional responsiveness, household chaos, and child eating behaviors. Moderation analyses assessed independent and interactive effects of chaos and emotional responsiveness on child appetite self-regulation. RESULTS:In moderation analyses controlling for demographic covariates, higher levels of chaos were associated with more emotional overeating and with more food responsiveness, but only among children of mothers observed engaging in low levels of responsiveness at mealtimes. There was no association between chaos and eating behavior among children of mothers observed engaging in high levels of emotional responsiveness at mealtimes. There was also no independent or interactive association between chaos and child eating behaviors characterized by food avoidance. CONCLUSION:Preliminary evidence suggests that maternal emotional responsiveness at mealtimes may attenuate the deleterious effects of chaos on child overeating and food responsiveness. Future research should prioritize using longitudinal designs, developing observational assessments of early childhood eating behaviors, and understanding these processes among families exposed to greater socioeconomic adversity.
Project description:Among the factors that may reduce the predictability of evolution, chaos, characterized by a strong dependence on initial conditions, has received much less attention than randomness due to genetic drift or environmental stochasticity. It was recently shown that chaos in phenotypic evolution arises commonly under frequency-dependent selection caused by competitive interactions mediated by many traits. This result has been used to argue that chaos should often make evolutionary dynamics unpredictable. However, populations also evolve largely in response to external changing environments, and such environmental forcing is likely to influence the outcome of evolution in systems prone to chaos. We investigate how a changing environment causing oscillations of an optimal phenotype interacts with the internal dynamics of an eco-evolutionary system that would be chaotic in a constant environment. We show that strong environmental forcing can improve the predictability of evolution by reducing the probability of chaos arising, and by dampening the magnitude of chaotic oscillations. In contrast, weak forcing can increase the probability of chaos, but it also causes evolutionary trajectories to track the environment more closely. Overall, our results indicate that, although chaos may occur in evolution, it does not necessarily undermine its predictability.
Project description:Widely used measures of the environment, especially the family environment of children, show genetic influence in dozens of twin and adoption studies. This phenomenon is known as gene-environment correlation in which genetically driven influences of individuals affect their environments. We conducted the first genome-wide association (GWA) analysis of an environmental measure. We used a measure called CHAOS which assesses 'environmental confusion' in the home, a measure that is more strongly associated with cognitive development in childhood than any other environmental measure. CHAOS was assessed by parental report when the children were 3 years and again when the children were 4 years; a composite CHAOS measure was constructed across the 2 years. We screened 490,041 autosomal single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a two-stage design in which children in low chaos families (N = 469) versus high chaos families (N = 369) from 3,000 families of 4-year-old twins were screened in Stage 1 using pooled DNA. In Stage 2, following SNP quality control procedures, 41 nominated SNPs were tested for association with family chaos by individual genotyping an independent representative sample of 3,529. Despite having 99% power to detect associations that account for more than 0.5% of the variance, none of the 41 nominated SNPs met conservative criteria for replication. Similar to GWA analyses of other complex traits, it is likely that most of the heritable variation in environmental measures such as family chaos is due to many genes of very small effect size.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Maternal depressed mood during pregnancy may shape a child's adaptation to their environment and engagement in goal-directed behaviour such as executive functions. Whether everyday household context also alters executive functions in children with prenatal selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant exposure remains to be determined. AIMS:To examine the impact of prenatal depressed maternal mood and SSRI exposure on child executive functions and to determine whether these exposures shape a susceptibility to household chaos. METHOD:A prospective cohort study of mothers and their children (118 mother-children dyads (47 SSRI-exposed, 71 non-exposed)) followed from the second trimester to 6 years. Regression models examined relationships between maternal depressed mood and household chaos on maternal report of child executive functions. Competitive-confirmatory regression models examined whether children were susceptible to household chaos or were positively influenced by less chaos. RESULTS:Prenatal SSRI exposure, third-trimester maternal depressed mood and household chaos in a three-way interaction were associated with executive functions within a model of differential susceptibility. When household chaos was low, children of non-prenatally depressed mothers had better executive function than children of prenatally depressed mothers, regardless of whether the mothers were SSRI-treated. However, when household chaos was high, SSRI-exposed children of mothers who were not depressed during pregnancy had poorer executive functions at 6 years of age compared with SSRI-exposed children whose mothers were symptomatic during pregnancy. CONCLUSIONS:The impact of household chaos depended on whether mothers were prenatally depressed and whether mothers were SSRI-treated.
Project description:Isolating child attributes and familial characteristics that support school readiness in children on the upper half of the socioeconomic spectrum can complement existing research on lower-socioeconomic status (SES) children and facilitate a more complete understanding of how children's performance varies across the full SES spectrum. This study examined if relations between SES, two components of executive function (EF; set-shifting and inhibitory control), and school readiness vary as a function of household chaos in 564 four-year-old children, primarily from middle-to upper-middle class families in the Northeast Region of the United States. Structural equation modeling of direct and indirect effects revealed three major findings: 1) higher levels of EF were related to better school readiness regardless of level of household chaos; 2) SES had an indirect effect on school readiness through set-shifting; and 3) household chaos was negatively associated with school readiness.