Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression
Depressive and anxious symptomology often become noteworthy during adolescence (Pratt & Brody, 2014). Household instability, or household chaos, has been noted in the literature as an increasingly relevant psychological construct that may serve as a potential red flag for psychological referrals (Petrill, Pike, Price, & Plomin, 2004). However, the accepted measure of household chaos (CHAOS; Matheny, Jr., Wachs, Ludwig, & Phillips, 1995) primarily focuses on chaos evident only within the home rather than incorporating the effects of the home environment interacting with society. This limited focus has left a gap in the literature that fails to link two proposed components of household chaos stressors. Additionally, the factors that make up an overall measure of household chaos have not been examined in the context of adolescent depressive and anxious symptoms. The current study proposed a revised conceptualization of household chaos as consisting of two factors: chaos evident within the home (internal household chaos) and chaos as a result of the home system interacting with external systems (external household chaos). The relationships between types of household chaos and adolescent symptoms were explored using archival data from 692 brief screeners administered to adolescents (11-18 years of age) in primary care and school settings (58.5% identified as female, 58.5% identified as black). Total household chaos was calculated based on adolescent endorsement of current stressors and was positively correlated with adolescent depressive and anxious symptoms (r =.331; p = .005). The results of a logistic regression were consistent with the revised conceptualization; the stressors fell into three separate categories, each of which predicted depressive and anxious symptoms in the sample of adolescents. All three predictor variables analyzed together significantly predicted the identification of adolescent depressive and anxious symptoms (X2 = 74.17, df = 34, N = 692, p < .001). The three categories were conceptualized as internal household chaos, external household chaos, and a third unpredicted factor that stood alone: the recent birth of a child in the family. Thus, a brief screener measuring adolescent endorsement of current household stressors may offer a significant advantage in detecting and treating adolescent depressive and anxious symptoms at an earlier stage in symptomatic development. Future directions include creating and validating a brief, comprehensive measure of household chaos that incorporates the three facets of household chaos. Additionally, researchers should examine how internal household chaos translates to external chaos with the potential to negatively impact a child’s development as well as academic and professional attainment.