Predictors of behavioral regulation in kindergarten: Household chaos, parenting, and early executive functions.


Behavioral regulation is an important school readiness skill that has been linked to early executive function (EF) and later success in learning and school achievement. Although poverty and related risks, as well as negative parenting, have been associated with poorer EF and behavioral regulation, chaotic home environments may also play a role in understanding both early EF and later behavioral regulation at school age. To explore these relationships, a unique longitudinal and representative sample was used of 1,292 children born to mothers who lived in low-wealth rural America who were followed from birth into early elementary school. This study examined whether household chaos, which was measured across the first 3 years of life, predicted behavioral regulation in kindergarten above and beyond poverty-related variables. In addition, this study tested whether parent responsivity and acceptance behaviors, measured during the first 3 years of life, as well as EF skills, which were measured when children were 3 to 5 years of age, mediated the relationship between early household chaos and kindergarten behavioral regulation. Results suggested that household chaos disorganization indirectly predicted kindergarten behavioral regulation through intermediate impacts on parenting behaviors and children’s early EF skills. These findings suggest the importance of early household chaos disorganization, the parenting environment, and early EF skills in understanding behavioral regulation above and beyond poverty-related risks.