Evidence shows that children’s household contexts of economic pressure and home chaos may better represent children’s daily home experiences than family socioeconomic status. Still, limited research has examined the impacts of household contexts on child developmental outcomes and their underlying mechanisms.
This study examined the longitudinal associations of economic pressure and home chaos with children’s prospective word reading and school readiness and executive functioning (EF) skills of attention shifting, inhibitory control, and working memory.
Longitudinal data were collected from a socioeconomically representative sample of 523 Chinese children (mean age 5.38 years; 52.9% male) and their parents and teachers in Hong Kong. Fathers and mothers at Time 1 (start of the school year) reported their perceived economic pressure and home chaos through questionnaires. At Time 2 (end of the school year), children’s EF and Chinese word reading were directly assessed with behavioral tasks, whereas teachers rated children’s school readiness using a questionnaire.
Controlling for child age and gender, economic pressure was associated with later working memory and attention shifting. Time 1 economic pressure was indirectly associated with time 2 word reading and school readiness via time 2 working memory. A negative direct relationship was found between home chaos and school readiness. No significant associations were observed between home chaos and later EF skills. CONCLUSIONS: Economic pressure predicts later working memory as well as word reading and school readiness. The study suggests a potential role of working memory in the links between home environment and school readiness.