Socioeconomic risk moderates the link between household chaos and maternal executive function

Kirby Deater-Deckard, Nan Chen, Zhe Wang, Martha Ann Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


We examined the link between household chaos (i.e., noise, clutter, disarray, lack of routines) and maternal executive function (i.e., effortful regulation of attention and memory), and whether it varied as a function of socioeconomic risk (i.e., single parenthood, lower mother and father educational attainment, housing situation, and father unemployment). We hypothesized that: 1) higher levels of household chaos would be linked with poorer maternal executive function, even when controlling for other measures of cognitive functioning (e.g., verbal ability), and 2) this link would be strongest in the most socioeconomically distressed or lowest-socioeconomic status households. The diverse sample included 153 mothers from urban and rural areas who completed a questionnaire and a battery of cognitive executive function tasks and a verbal ability task in the laboratory. Results were mixed for Hypothesis 1, and consistent with Hypothesis 2. Two-thirds of the variance overlapped between household chaos and maternal executive function, but only in families with high levels of socioeconomic risk. This pattern was not found for chaos and maternal verbal ability, suggesting that the potentially deleterious effects of household chaos may be specific to maternal executive function. The findings implicate household chaos as a powerful statistical predictor of maternal executive function in socioeconomically distressed contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-399
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Environment
  • Executive function
  • Parenting
  • Socioeconomic status


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