• IQ;
  • behavior problems;
  • environment;
  • parenting

Background:  We tested the hypothesis that household chaos would be associated with lower child IQ and more child conduct problems concurrently and longitudinally over two years while controlling for housing conditions, parent education/IQ, literacy environment, parental warmth/negativity, and stressful events.

Methods:  The sample included 302 families with same-sex twins (58% female) in Kindergarten/1st grade at the first assessment. Parents’ and observers’ ratings were gathered, with some collected over a two-year period.

Results:  Chaos varied widely. There was substantial mother–father agreement and longitudinal stability. Chaos covaried with poorer housing conditions, lower parental education/IQ, poorer home literacy environment, higher stress, higher negativity and lower warmth. Chaos statistically predicted lower IQ and more conduct problems, beyond the effects of other home environment factors.

Conclusions:  Even with other home environment factors controlled, higher levels of chaos were linked concurrently with lower child IQ, and concurrently and longitudinally with more child conduct problems. Parent self-reported chaos represents an important aspect of housing and family functioning, with respect to children’s cognitive and behavioral functioning.