Household Chores May Help Develop Children’s Executive Functioning: Study

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Having kids do household chores may have more benefits beyond helping keep the home in order. It may also aid in the development of kids’ executive functions, a study has found.

In many households, family members each have their own chores to fulfill on a daily basis, and even children have their own tasks to complete. Previous studies have found that age-appropriate chores can help children have feelings of autonomy, according to the authors of the study published in Australian Occupational Therapy. It has also been linked to “improved prosocial behaviors and greater life satisfaction.”

“Of emerging interest is the purported relationship between engagement in household chores and child cognitive development, particularly executive functioning,” the researchers wrote.

Executive functioning is the term used to describe the cognitive processes related to goal-directed behavior and self-regulation, the researchers explained. These include functions such as working memory, planning, remembering instructions and switching between tasks, La Trobe University noted in a news release. These are said to develop during early childhood and continue into early adulthood, though this may vary depending on culture and upbringing.

“While there is some evidence to suggest that engagement in household chores is associated with the retainment of executive functions in older adults, few studies have explored this relationship in children, for whom these skills are still developing,” the researchers explained.

For their work, the researchers conducted a survey on 207 parents and guardians of children between the ages of 5 and 13. They completed questionnaires regarding their children’s chores and executive functioning. The researchers’ hypothesis was that engaging in household chores would have better inhibition and working memory.

Indeed, they found that doing self-care chores (making a meal for themselves), or family-care chores (making a meal for someone else) “significantly predicted” inhibition and working memory.

This suggests that chores may help with the development of executive functioning as they require the individual to plan, switch between tasks, self-regulate and maintain attention, the researchers noted. This is particularly important because issues with executive functioning may lead to difficulties later on.

“Impairments or delays in executive functioning development can lead to difficulties in the ability to self-regulate, plan and problem solve as adults, having implications later in life on reading performance and mathematical ability, as well as predicting overall academic achievement in later childhood,” study lead Deanna Tepper of La Trobe University said in the news release.

As such, age-appropriate chores may help develop these important functions. Apart from having such chores at home, this may also be developed through interventions such as school cooking programs, the researchers said.

Children who cook a family meal or weed the garden on a regular basis may be more likely to excel in other aspects of life–like schoolwork or problem solving,” Tepper said.

For now, the researchers recommend further research on the matter.

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