Abstract: The Impact of Household Chaos on Adolescent Delinquency: A Moderated Mediation Model of Impulsivity and School Connectedness (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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44P The Impact of Household Chaos on Adolescent Delinquency: A Moderated Mediation Model of Impulsivity and School Connectedness

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Young Sun Joo, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher, Ewha Womans University, Korea, Republic of (South)
Woon Kyung Lee, PhD, Research Faculty, Ewha Womans University
Background: Household chaos is characterized by home environments with high levels of noise, crowding, disorganization, and a lack of family routine. Consistent research has examined how chaotic home environments can negatively impact the academic, psychological, and behavioral outcomes of children, holding constant for family’s socioeconomic statuses. Nevertheless, it remains unclear if chaotic home environments influence the outcomes of adolescents and particularly their delinquent behaviors. It is worth examining if life in a chaotic environment can adversely affect adolescents’ delinquent behaviors, as the home environment is a significant and familiar location where they spend most of their daily lives. Chaotic homes can be psychosocial stressors for adolescents, lowering their self-control and increasing their strain and impulsivity—all precursors to delinquency. Social support systems at schools can also help shield adolescents from the impulsivity and delinquency that results from household chaos. Therefore, this study examines (1) the association between household chaos and delinquency; (2) the mediating role of impulsivity on the association between household chaos and delinquency; and (3), the moderating role of school connectedness on the association between household chaos, impulsivity, and delinquency.

Method: This study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) (Time 6), a longitudinal study that followed the birth cohort born between 1998 and 2000 in US cities. The analytic sample consisted of 2,951 adolescents whose average age was 15.57 years old (SD = .75). The analyses employed adolescent-reported delinquency (13 items), household chaos (5 items), impulsivity (6 items), and school connectedness (4 items) measures. Data were analyzed through mediation (Model 4) and moderated mediation analyses (Model 9) using the PROCESS Macro program in SPSS.

Results: The results indicated that household chaos was positively associated with delinquency and that impulsivity mediated this association. Our moderated mediation analyses showed that the pathway between impulsivity and delinquency was moderated by school connectedness. In other words, the association between impulsivity and delinquency was weaker for adolescents with higher levels of school connectedness than adolescents with low levels of school connectedness. Unexpectedly, household chaos was more likely to trigger impulsive behavior in adolescents who had established more connections through their schools. This may be because impulsivity is a temperamental trait, and adolescents with certain temperamental characteristics are more likely to be influenced by both negative and positive environments.

Conclusion/Implications: Our findings highlight the significant proximal impact that daily disorganization has on adolescent impulsivity and delinquency. It also provides a deeper understanding into how life in a chaotic home environment can contribute to delinquent behavior. Prevention programs that are designed to reduce delinquency may need to develop strategies to diminish impulsivity. In addition, our findings underscore the importance of using school connectedness to shield against behaviors that foster delinquency. School-based interventions that aim to promote school connectedness can effectively prevent delinquency by reducing the impact of impulsivity and by encouraging adolescents to make positive transitions into adulthood.