Summary: Children who regularly help around the house with household chores may perform better in school and have better problem-solving skills.
Source: La Trobe University
According to a new study from La Trobe University, requiring your children to do household chores on a regular basis may be associated with better academic performance and better problem-solving skills.
The study, led by Ph.D. candidate Deanna Tepper and published in Australian Occupational Therapyfound that regular tasks were associated with better executive functions – planning, self-regulation, switching between tasks, and memorizing instructions.
Tepper said the study results indicate that interventions that incorporate household activities like cooking or gardening can be particularly beneficial for children.
“Parents may be able to use age- and ability-appropriate tasks to facilitate the development of executive functions,” Tepper said.
“Children who cook a family meal or weed the garden regularly may be more likely to excel in other aspects of life, such as schoolwork or problem solving.”
The study involved parents and guardians of 207 children between the ages of 5 and 13. In mid-2020, parents/guardians were asked to complete questionnaires about the number of tasks their children performed daily and their child’s executive function.
Researchers found that engagement in self-care tasks, such as preparing a meal, and family tasks, such as preparing a meal for someone else, significantly predicted working memory and mental health. inhibition (the ability to think before acting), after controlling for the influence of age, gender and the presence or absence of a disability.
While previous research has shown that engaging children in age-appropriate tasks can increase feelings of autonomy and is associated with better prosocial behaviors and greater life satisfaction, this is the first study to examine the association between regular tasks and child cognitive development, particularly executive functioning.
Executive functions are generally defined as: working memory; the ability to monitor and manipulate temporary information; inhibition, the ability to inhibit automatic responses or suppress irrelevant information to focus on a task; and displacement, the ability to shift focus between tasks.
“Typically, these skills begin to develop in early childhood and continue to develop through late adolescence and early adulthood,” Tepper said.
“Disorders or delays in the development of executive functions can lead to difficulties in the ability to self-regulate, plan, and problem-solve in adulthood, with implications for reading performance later in life. and math, as well as predicting overall academic achievement later in childhood.”
Early development of executive functioning has also been linked to engagement in higher education and improved physical health and financial status in adulthood.
“Research indicates that it may be possible to improve executive functions by developing individualized learning activities and routines,” Tepper said.
“We hypothesized that children who did more chores would have better inhibition and working memory. Our results likely reflect that most tasks require individuals to self-regulate, sustain attention, plan, and switch between tasks, thereby supporting the development of executive functioning.
About this neurodevelopment research news
Original research: Free access.
“Executive functions and household chores: Does task engagement predict children’s cognition?” by Deanna L. Tepper et al. Australian Journal of Occupational Therapy
Executive functions and household chores: Does task engagement predict children’s cognition?
The benefits of completing household chores seem to transfer beyond the management of daily living. It is possible that task engagement may improve executive functions because task engagement requires individuals to plan, self-regulate, switch between tasks, and remember instructions. To date, little research has been conducted on household chores and executive functions in children, for whom these skills are still developing.
Parents and guardians (NOT = 207) of children aged 5 to 13 (M= 9.38, South Dakota= 2.15) were asked to complete parent-report questionnaires about their child’s engagement in household chores and their child’s executive functioning.
Regression model results indicated that engagement in self-care tasks (eg, preparing a meal) and family tasks (eg, preparing a meal for someone else) significantly predicted working memory and inhibition, after controlling for the influence of age, gender and the presence or absence of a disability. For families with a pet, there was no significant relationship between engagement in household chores and executive function skills.
We strongly recommend that further research explore the relationship between tasks and executive functions. Parents may be able to facilitate the development of their child’s executive functions by encouraging participation in household chores, while chore-based interventions (eg, cooking programs) can also be used to target capacity gaps.