HEALTH SPOTLIGHT: Chores Prove to Enhance Later Self-Competency in Young Children

By  //  May 7, 2019

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Involve young children in daily chores

A recent study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics concludes that household chores assigned to early elementary school-age children contribute to later self-competence.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Space Coast Daily is delighted to welcome Dr. Christopher Johnson as a guest contributor on issues of child health and well-being. With 35 years of experience practicing pediatrics, pediatric critical care (intensive care), and pediatric emergency room care he is committed to educating parents on how best to meet the needs of the ill and injured child in today’s often confusing and complex healthcare system. In this article, Dr. Johnson reports on a study that looks at how young children who take on age-appropriate responsibility for household chores benefit as they grow.

— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

In my most recent newsletter I feature an interesting study from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics which, I suppose, reinforces what parents (and their parents) have known for a long time: the responsibility of doing age-appropriate tasks around the house not only gets the trash taken out but also is a positive experience for children.

The investigators’ objective was simple. They noted that the development of self-competence is important to achieving academic, social, and career success.

They then asked whether performing chores in early elementary school contributes to later self-competence. I was a little surprised to read that little is known about this formally, although it seems like common sense to me.

The researchers analyzed data from 9,971 children participating in a large cohort study of children entering kindergarten in the United States in 2010 and 2011. During kindergarten, parents reported the frequency with which their child performed chores.

In the third grade, children responded to a questionnaire regarding their perceived interest or competence in academics, peer relationships, social behavior, and life satisfaction. Children also completed direct academic assessments for reading, math, and science.

The frequency of chores in kindergarten was positively associated (with high statistical significance) with a child’s perception of social, academic, and life satisfaction competencies in the third grade.

Now I realize this study design suffers from various confounders, not the least of which is if children can even understand such concepts. It also is not randomized in any way. But even so it was interesting.

The frequency of chores in kindergarten was positively associated (with high statistical significance) with a child’s perception of social, academic, and life satisfaction competencies in the third grade, independent of sex, family income, and parent education.

Compared with children who regularly performed chores, children who rarely performed chores had greater odds of scoring in the bottom fifth on self-reported social, academic ability, peer relationship, and life satisfaction scores. Performing chores with any frequency in kindergarten was also associated with improved math scores in the third grade.

Sometimes it does seem that social science research is mostly quantifying common sense, but this is a useful study to have, and the study group was very large, giving the findings added weight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher Johnson, MD

Dr. Christopher Johnson received his undergraduate education in history and religion at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1974. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1978 from Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota, then trained in general pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, followed by training in pediatric infectious diseases, hematology research, and pediatric critical care medicine at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in general pediatrics and in pediatric critical care medicine and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Johnson, who has been named to a list of  The 50 Best Mayo Clinic Doctors — Ever,” devotes his time to practicing pediatric critical care as President of Pediatric Intensive Care Associates, P.C., as Medical Director of the PICU for CentraCare Health Systems, and to writing about medicine for general readers. His popular website/blog and four books provide a wealth of information and answers to practical questions related to child health issues.

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