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A ‘Chaotic’ Household Can Weaken A Teen's Likelihood To Share With Their Mom, Study Suggests

Researchers found that “spontaneous disclosure" was crucial for a parent-teen bond.

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Recent research reveals that chaotic home environments can have negative effects on family interacti...
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Moms looking to get more from a convo with their teen than school was “fine” and complaints about the available snacks may need to check in with the energy in their home.

A new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology suggests there is a correlation between a household’s level of chaos and healthy family communication. The recent research reveals that chaotic home environments can have negative effects on family interactions — especially on a teen’s willingness to share their life with their mom.

The lead psychologist on the study, Jackie Nelson of the University of Texas, notes that chaotic home environments — characterized by confusion, disorganization, noise, unpredictability, clutter, and a lack of routine — create unpredictability and tension in the home, which compromises family functioning.

“Stressful experiences, such as living in a chaotic home environment, can deplete parents’ regulatory abilities, making it more difficult for them to remain responsive and positively engaged with children over the course of the day,” said Nelson.

The study examined the conversations of 109 mother-teen pairs over the course of a week. The study focused specifically on an adolescents’ contribution to conversation and what they chose to disclose with their mothers. The study also noted the impact that each household’s “chaos” had on these interactions.

The study highlights the importance of adolescent disclosure, which is the amount of information teenagers voluntarily share with their parents without any prompting. Researchers also referred to this as “spontaneous disclosure.”

Spontaneous disclosure is a key factor when it comes to a parents’ awareness of what’s going on with their teens. Researchers noted that teenagers may withhold information or lie when conversations are initiated by parents. Sometimes, it’s better to lie in wait for your kid to dish out some details from their life.

The study revealed that the most of the mothers studied felt that their teens were less responsive to conversations with them during chaotic periods. Nelson theorized teens may withhold information from mothers on a more chaotic day because they are worried they will be criticized or get in trouble.

“Our study shows adolescents share more with mothers on days when mothers are open and warm towards them,” Nelson said.

The study also reported that girls tended to share more information overall than boys (not super shocking), and there was a slight decrease in adolescent disclosure as the week progressed, most likely due to the exhaustion and burnout from school and extracurriculars.

To continue to foster healthy communication and strengthen relationships with teen children, parents should work to reduce household chaos and try to promote a calm and supportive environment with routine and organization.

Of course, this is all easier said than done.

Along with the stressors that every day working parents manage, sometimes a teen’s contribution to the conversation can be a bit on the grating side. It can be hard to stay focused, present, and interested when your teen child just wants to ask you for money or fill you in on school gossip. But the work of building the parent-child is important, and school gossip that may seem vapid to you is most likely the center of their world right now.

Moms looking to strengthen that bond with their teen could also try to include a handful of sit-down, screen-free meals a week and dedicated time to reconnect as a family. (Mini golf, anyone?) Just showing your teen that you’re trying to spend time with them — even if they think it’s “cringe” — could have lasting impacts down the line.

Delayed gratification, people!

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