Chaotic Family Environments Increase Depression and Aggression in Children

Children are a product of their environments. Just as children who are brought up in loving, supportive, and caring environments are more likely to behavior that way as adults, children who are brought up in fear, anger, and hostility have a higher chance of experiencing similar environments in adulthood. But does this same theory apply to acoustic and physical chaos? Syeda Shamama-tus-Sabah of the National Institute of Psychology at Quaid-i-Aaam University in Pakistan wanted to explore this question. In a recent study, Shamama-tus-Sabah reviewed parent and teacher reports on 150 elementary school children. The children ranged in age from 8 to 11 years old and were all living with educated mothers. The children were assessed for depression and aggression to measure adjustment.

Shamama-tus-Sabah found a direct link between chaos and adjustment. “The results indicate that children from high chaotic families exhibit more aggression and depressive symptoms as compared to children from low chaotic families as reported by their parents and teachers,” said Shamama-tus-Sabah. This finding suggests that children who are not living in structure and routine may be more likely to struggle with behavior problems. This can lead to risk taking, including alcohol and drug use, tobacco initiation, and even sexually risky behavior. When Shamama-tus-Sabah looked at gender as a contributing factor, she found no difference in the chaos-adjustment relationship for girls and boys.

Some research has suggested that boys are more sensitive to chaotic environments, and therefore have higher levels of maladjustment than girls from similar environments. This research provided no support for that theory, but future research might explore that more in order to see if other types of maladjustment, aside from depression and aggression, manifest in boys more than girls. In western cultures, chaotic homes are not uncommon. However, in Pakistan, the increase in chaotic home lives, with more parents working and cities becoming overcrowded, could increase the risk for maladjustment in the youth population. In order to get a broader picture of the effects of chaos, future work should examine the gender aspect more thoroughly and should include parents of varying degrees of education and socioeconomic status.

Shamama-tus-Sabah, Syeda, et al. (2013). Chaotic home conditions and children’s adjustment: Study of gender differences. Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research 27.2 (2012): 297-313. ProQuest. Web.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • jennifer

    April 9th, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    not much of a difference between boys and girls because of their age. had the study been for kids a little older than this group there definitely woud have been differences. girls tend to keep it within themselves and suffer from depression or anxiety, and boys tend to abuse substances and show anger and resentment.

  • Mia

    April 10th, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    I would agree with all of this. My niece is a prime example. She has never been given a distict bedtime, my brother and his wife are up at all hours of the night and think that it’s ok for her to be too. Therefore she has no sense of a schedue and she is so aggressive that I can’t atnd for her to play with my own kids sometimes. I know that a big part of this is that her parents are kin d of fly by night, there is no meaningful structure and that’s how she has learned to live. When you try to impose something on her that she’s not used to she goes ballistic and it makes me sad to think of the kind of life they are setting her up for.

  • Leah

    April 10th, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    The author of this study totally fascinates me. All I ever hear about coming out of Pakistan is war-related. I didn’t even know they’d have a university. So, I am wondering-were the studies done on Pakistani children, western children, both? I can’t even imagine what life in Pakistan must be like for school-aged children.

  • margie

    April 10th, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Yup-see it all the time when i drop my kid off at school. all those rich white kids with moms whose only job it is to take care of them kids? Yup. There all so good. my kid with the mom and dad who have to each work two jobs? Yup-there bad. but at least there fed.

  • nulifar

    April 10th, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    I just don’t get parents who don’t provide their kids with structure. Yes, people are busy. My husband and I both work, but both of our kids always have their homework done, we eat dinner together, and both kids are in bed at their bed time. In the morning, they have the exact same routine that assures they get out of the door on time. Why is this so hard, people?

  • gloria j

    April 10th, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    jennifer, I agree. If depression is anger turned inwards, you’re right on.

  • tina

    April 10th, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    The bottom line is that kids need to know where they stand at all times period. Spare the rod, spoil the child and that means keeping structure in your house at all times no matter how inconvenient it may be for you.

    Some parents just dont get it-it takes a little work uip front to make schedules and what not but then life is just so much easier which is what my therapist taught us when we were ahving so much trouble at home with out kids.

    I think everyone ot to have to go to therapy before they can have kids its not the kids fault they act up so much if there parents are acting all crazy at home and not giving them no rules to follow.

  • Kendra l

    April 10th, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    No big surprise here right? Children need some discipline and structure and when they don’t have that then of course they are going to grow up to mimic the same aggressive and chaotic behavior that they have primarily been raised in. I really wish that more people would put a little thought in to having kids when they know that this is the kind of environment that they are choosing to raise them in.

  • Jose

    April 11th, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    I see this a lot in families who are scratching by to survive.
    Generally there is so much anxiety and frustration about making ends meet that much of this gets taken out on the children. Then what is created is theis perfect storm for the children then retaliating and coming up with their own ways to deal, namely with more aggression toward others and themselves.
    Most of them just want to have a fighting chance and for whatever reason they have been given a tough hand to play.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.