Household chaos is characterized by high levels of background noise, lots of frenetic and undirected activity, clutter, lack of structure, and residential crowding. Researchers are interested in household chaos because it distinguishes highly vulnerable families with limited economic resources in terms of those who do well and those who struggle. Household chaos is believed to disrupt parenting, place children at risk of poor academic outcomes, and over time jeopardize physical health. Although chaos is overrepresented in low-income households, not all low-income households experience chaos. Researchers are interested in chaos because after controlling for socioeconomic risk, chaos is directly associated with factors that compromise effective parenting such as stress and depression. This entry discusses some of the foundational studies that drew attention to chaos, an overview ...

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