The Value of Chores For Children

By Liz Wolf

Research Shows Just How Important It Is to Involve Young Children in Household Chores

All parents want their children to be self-reliant and responsible as they grow into young adults. New research shows it can be as simple as having them set the table, help with the laundry, pick up their toys and take out the garbage.

Marty Rossmann, an associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, has found that parents can have a major impact on their children's future simply by encouraging them to help with tasks around the house. Rossmann's research indicates that having children take an active role in the household, starting at age 3 or 4, directly influences their ability to become well-adjusted young adults.

Chores"It seems there's a payoff to having children help out, beyond learning how to keep a home in order," says Kris Loubert, a parent educator who has used Rossmann's research in her teaching.

Rossmann used previously unexplored data collected by Diana Baumrind, a well-known researcher on parenting styles. Baumrind began her study in 1967 using a sample of families living in the San Francisco area. Rossmann's own family had been part of that study. Baumrind collected the data over 25 years.

"She gathered a great deal of data that she didn't use, and I saw the possibility of doing secondary analysis of it," Rossmann says. "I saw an enormous amount related to children's involvement in household tasks."

Rossmann analyzed the outcomes for 84 young adults based on their parents' style of interacting, their participation in family tasks at three periods of their lives - ages 3 to 4, 9 to 10 and 15 to 16 - and brief phone interviews when they were in their mid-20s. She examined variables - including parenting styles, gender, types of household tasks, time spent on tasks, and attitudes and motivators associated with doing the tasks - to determine their impact on the children. She then measured each individual's "successes."

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