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We may not always be aware of it, but performing household chores at home mobilizes a lot of skills: memory, the ability to plan tasks, self-regulate, or even switch from one task to another. As a result, “tasks” help to improve the executive functions. Practiced at the earliest in life, would household chores affect children’s cognitive development? Australian researchers have investigated the case.
All members of a household (in theory), adults and children, perform daily various tasks related to domestic work, including the preparation of meals and cleaning. In addition to allowing individuals to live in a clean place and to feed themselves properly, these activities can have unimaginable benefits. In fact, studies have shown that performing household chores (similar to their age) gives the child a sense of autonomy, better prosocial behavior, and more generally, greater satisfaction with life.
Other studies have also shown that domestic chores help maintain executive functions in the elderly. Executive functions refer to a set of high-level cognitive processes associated with self-regulation and goal-directed behavior. In children, these skills are still under development, and few studies have examined the impact of household chores on their future executive functions. Deanna Tepper and her colleagues at La Trobe University conducted a study of more than 200 children to examine the “benefits” of chores.
Works that require multiple cognitive functions
This study is the first to examine the link between common chores and children’s cognitive development, especially executive functions. These include working memory, the ability to monitor and manipulate temporary information; inhibition, the ability to inhibit automatic responses or suppress irrelevant information to focus on a task; and change, that is, the ability to shift one’s attention from one task to another.
” Typically, these skills begin to develop in early childhood and continue to develop through late adolescence and early adulthood. “, Tepper and his team specify in the review Australian occupational therapy. Successful acquisition of these skills in early childhood is associated with better reading and numeracy skills, as well as overall academic achievement. Conversely, impairments or delays in executive function can lead to difficulties in the ability to self-regulate, plan, and problem-solve.
Namely, that it is possible to improve executive functions, by developing activities and individualized learning routines that mobilize working memory, inhibition and / or change. And it turns out that domestic duties fulfill this role perfectly! It is therefore possible that greater involvement in the performance of tasks can predict and even improve children’s executive functions. This is the assumption on which Deanna Tepper’s study is based.
The parents (or guardians) of 207 children aged five to 13 years from 15 different countries participated in this study. They were asked to complete questionnaires about the number of chores their children did daily and about their executive function. Tasks related to personal care (e.g. making a bed), family care (e.g. washing dishes, preparing a meal, etc.) and caring for pets were explored separately to determine what type of task, if any, best predicted executive function.
A context that needs to be clarified
After checking for the influence of age, gender, and the presence or absence of disability, the results of the regression models show that engagement in personal care and family care tasks predicts memory of work and disability significantly. But unexpectedly, pet-related tasks had no bearing on these skills. ” Tasks such as pouring beverages or water into a bowl may not be complex or challenging enough to aid in the development of the executive function The researchers note.
Regular household chores are clearly associated with better executive functions. Activities such as cooking or gardening can be especially beneficial for children. ” Children who make a family meal or regularly weed the garden may be more likely to excel in other aspects of life – such as schoolwork or problem solving said Tepper in a statement.
Most chores require individuals to self-regulate, maintain attention, plan, and go from task to task, promoting the development of executive function. But the researchers point out that there is also a connection between fine and gross motor skills and executive function, so the “physical” aspect of certain tasks can also contribute to this effect.
The team notes, however, that the direction of the relationship could not be determined in this study: household chores can improve executive functions, but it is also possible that children with robust executive functions are more likely to engage in household chores (or are more requested by their families ). Further research is therefore needed to clarify this point.
Meanwhile, the team recommends that parents encourage their children to participate in household chores appropriate to their age and abilities to facilitate the development of their executive functions.