Does the Environment Affect a Child's Behavior?

The various environments that children encounter in day-to-day life have an impact on their overall behaviors and attitudes. From the classroom to home life, environments can either be a positive or negative influence. In addition to the emotional influence of the environment, research presented from Dartmouth College in 2004 at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association revealed that other concerns such as toxins and poor air quality can also alter behavior. Maintaining a healthy atmosphere ensures that any behavioral changes are due to the child's own actions and are not caused by outside influence.


An environment filled with sadness and negativity can seriously affect a child's behaviors. While children are usually upbeat by nature, an atmosphere that constantly focuses on the bad things in life can quickly change the child's natural tendencies for positivity. A study published in 1999 in "Environment and Behavior" confirms the belief that environments considered negative by the child do indeed cause emotional distress 1.

Restricted Enviornments and Development

An overly restrictive environment can hold a child back from being who he truly is, thereby causing disruptive or emotional behavioral outbursts. Limiting a child insinuates that he must conform or live up to a certain set of standards, which can lead to depression, anxiety and, later on, defiance.

Chaotic Enviornments

Children that grow up in a household filled with chaos are bound to have behavioral problems. Similar results occur if the child is enrolled in a school that lacks routine or scheduled activities. Regular routines including mealtime, chores and organized activities help children have steady and appropriate behavior. A clean environment also helps to foster positive behaviors by providing space and structure. The chaos of a dirty home or classroom also affects the health of children, which can then alter their actions.

Maternal Depression

A study published in 2007 in the Journal of Injury Prevention noted that a child raised by a clinically depressed mother would have a higher incidence of externalized behavior problems. Additionally, children in this environment tend to have a higher rate of injury than those brought up in a household where the mother did not suffer from this type of mental illness. Special attention is required for a child that is living with a depressed mother in order to avoid behavioral problems.

Toxins and Children

Toxins leaking into the environment can cause problems with behavior that may even be severe enough to mimic disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although lead poisoning and other dangerous problems cause serious behavioral reactions, an article published in 2003 by The Crossroads Institute, a private clinic and research facility that explores and uses science-based technologies, disclosed the fact that regular household products also have the power to change behavior in children. The article also confirms that cigarette or cigar smoke, products containing formaldehyde, cleaners and perfumes are all risk factors.

Air Quality

Air pollution--both indoors and outside--can cause health related problems in children. Research published in 2003 in Pediatrics and in 2008 in Respiration both infer that children with pollution-related health concerns typically have behavioral problems as well, making air quality twice as harmful. If the child continuously breathes in low quality air, it can cause lifelong problems such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and anxiety. An indoor air purifier and limited time outdoors in heavily polluted areas reduces the chance of this environmental hazard having any negative effect.

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