Academic journal article Family Relations

The Direct and Indirect Effects of Home Clutter on Parenting

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Direct and Indirect Effects of Home Clutter on Parenting

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine multiple predictors of maternal authoritarian parenting including (a) cluttered homes, (b) child characteristics (i.e., emotional temperament), and (c) maternal characteristics (i.e., tense/nervousness). Data were gathered from 177 mothers of young children between ages 3 and 5 (95 male, 82 female children) attending two early childhood programs in a midsized community in the western United States. Structural equation modeling (AMOS 19.0) was used to examine the strength of the relationships within the model. Results showed that authoritarian parenting was positively predicted by home clutter and mother tenseness/nervousness, and mediational analyses shed light on the nature of these relationships.

Key Words: authoritarian, emotionality, home, parenting, stress.

Although researchers in the field of environmental psychology and similar fields have explored how a few environmental factors (i.e., noise, color, crowding, architectural depth) affect human functioning on an individual basis (i.e., withdrawal, learning), there is a need to examine how additional aspects of the residential home environment affect family processes (i.e., parenting styles and practices). For example, there is a plethora of work examining how colors and décor affect the moods of individuals (see Pile, 1997, for review), yet parenting and familyfunctioning outcomes are neglected in current research. An additional line of research has examined the effects of factors such as crowding or noise in the home environment. For instance, Evans, Lepore, and Schroeder ( 1996 ) discovered that in a crowded home environment, individuals tend to exhibit increased withdrawn behaviors. However, little research has been done regarding how other aspects of the home environment (e.g., clutter) affect behaviors of children and parents. One of the few studies that tapped into this issue explored the relationship between neglectful and abusive parental behaviors and homes in extreme disrepair, including sanitary issues, rodents, mold, and excrement (Watson-Purczel, Lutzker, Greene, & McGimpsy, 1988). But further study is needed that addresses a less extreme level of home "dirtiness," as in the previous example, or "clutter," as may be illustrated by fanatical hoarding, and its relationship to more normative aspects of parenting and family variables. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine aspects of the home environment as predictors of maternal parenting. Specifically we explored how (a) home clutter (i.e., general untidiness, messiness of rooms, disorganization, accumulation of dirty dishes), (b) child characteristics (i.e., emotionality), and (c) mother characteristics (i.e., tense/nervousness) predict maternal authoritarian parenting.

The Role of the Environment

Bronfenbrenner's (1979) notions of "environmental contexts" explicitly include the family. neighborhood, culture, and community as systems, or settings, that affect and are affected by their parts or members (e.g., the developing child). It is important to consider that these smaller systems also include physical structures such as parks, schools, and houses that make up neighborhoods and communities. To address these physical elements, a movement known as environmental psychology (also known as human ecology, cognitive ergonomics, architectural psychology, socioarchitecture, and environmental design research) highlights the interaction between humans and their built environment (Proshansky, 1987). This line of work has been particularly informative in explicating the role of environmental factors (i.e., crowding, noise, pollution) on individuals (i.e., tendency to withdraw, hearing sensitivity, allergies, etc.). For example, Regoeczi (2002) explored the implications of a high-density (i.e., crowded with people) neighborhood on children's behaviors and found that the density of the neighborhood and the density of the home interact in predicting child outcomes. …

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