Organized Chaos: Daily Routines Link Household Chaos and Child Behavior Problems

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The aim of this study was to examine daily routines as a potential mediator of the relation between household chaos and both child externalizing behavior and bedtime resistant behavior. Studies show that children living in chaotic households exhibit more externalizing behaviors, which when exhibited as early as the toddler and preschool years, are a risk factor for later maladjustment. Understanding the mechanisms linking household chaos to early externalizing behaviors is important since those mechanisms could be targeted as a point of intervention.


Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (Mturk), parents (n = 120) of a child age 2–5 completed questionnaires online assessing household chaos, frequency of routines, and child behavior problems.


There was a significant indirect effect of household chaos to child behavior problems through family routines (B = 0.09, SE = 0.05, CI [0.01, 0.23]) and general child routines (B = 0.15, SE = 0.06, CI [0.05, 0.31]) (independently) and an indirect effect of household chaos to bedtime resistant behavior through children’s bedtime routines (B = 0.12, SE = 0.06, CI [0.03, 0.26]).


These findings suggest that household chaos and routines are distinctive constructs and that routines are a mechanism linking household chaos to early child behavior problems. Clinically, these results imply that routines may be a reasonable focus for intervention among families living in chaotic households who have young children exhibiting behavior problems.

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Author Contributions

KLL: designed and executed the study, completed data analyses, and wrote the paper. SSJ: assisted with study design, and collaborated on data analyses and writing and editing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kristy L. Larsen.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (University of Southern Mississippi Institutional Review Board Protocol #17052302) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Additional chaos items

(16) Our home is crowded. (R)

(17) We need more space in our home. (R)

(18) There are too many people in our home. (R)

(19) Our home is cluttered. (R)

(20) We can never find what we need. (R)

(21) There is too much stuff in our home. (R)

(22) Our home is neat and organized.

(23) There is plenty of room in our home.

(24) There is a lot of background noise in our home. (R)

(25) Our home is usually loud. (R)

(26) Things run smoothly in our home.

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Larsen, K.L., Jordan, S.S. Organized Chaos: Daily Routines Link Household Chaos and Child Behavior Problems. J Child Fam Stud (2019) doi:10.1007/s10826-019-01645-9

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  • Household chaos
  • Routines
  • Behavior problems
  • Bedtime resistance
  • Child