Articles and Topics
What Is Your HQ (Home Quotient)?
Everybody knows what the IQ is. But what do I mean by an HQ? What is a Home Quotient, and how do you measure it? A Home Quotient is an indicator of the overall level of support for development found in any given home.

So much is written these days about the parents' role in the development of their children that it is easy to become over-anxious and fearful that small mistakes in their behavior will have disastrous consequences. Of course, it is important to realize that, as parents, we are primarily responsible for the development of our children; after all, we give them their genes and their early physical and psychological environments. But we should not become fearful that one temper outburst, one failure to be on time for a pick-up at child care, or one snide or negative remark will forever damage them. You can dismiss such fears by recognizing that your home environment exerts its influence as a total package, rather than in isolated bursts of experience.

But how do you measure this total package of influence? What all is in it? Over the past 30 years there has been a great deal of research concerned with how to assess the quality of the home in an objective way and to identify aspects of that environment that relate to the intellectual and social development of children. The instrument most widely used in that research is called the HOME Inventory, with the name standing for Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment. I blushingly confess that the instrument was developed by my colleague, Robert H. Bradley, and me and that we have been involved in much of the research to which I refer. But so have hundreds of other persons working in different cultures all over the world. And that global research has clearly shown that it is possible to identify some of the components of home environments that facilitate the development of children. Let's review them:

This is what is most talked about, and it is obviously important. Stimulation of language by talking and reading to babies and young children, by teaching them little rhymes and games, by modeling mature behavior, and, in time, by encouraging the learning of things like the ABC's, colors, names and addresses, and so on.

Responding to infants and young children is just as important as, if not more important than, stimulating them. Our responses provide cues to young children as to what we value. Three-month-old babies will look up at an adult leaning over them and make a sound something like, 'Grck.' If the adult gets all excited, smiles, pats or hugs, and says 'Grck yourself,' it is highly likely that the baby will continue to make sounds. The adult's response says to the infant, 'Making sounds is something I want you to do.' If the adult pays no attention, after a few more trials the baby will give up. A baby whose cries lead to being picked up and held learns that behavior on her part has an effect, and that baby will come to feel increasingly confident and capable.

Acceptance. As much as we might not like it, we simply have to accept some forms of immature behavior without rushing in with punishment. Many parents worry that they will spoil their child if they let any instance of misbehavior or failure to meet standards go undisciplined. But imperfection is a characteristic of immaturity, and acceptance of imperfection is an important ingredient of a high HQ.

Learning materials.
Long before I became a contributor to the Fisher-Price web page, I was stressing the importance for development of appropriate toys and learning materials. Every study we have done with the HOME has shown the importance of this. Toys that improve eye-hand coordination, small and large muscle coordination, sorting and classifying; that provide warmth and comfort; and that help stimulate exploration and creativity are essential for optimal development.

Encouragement of maturity.
Along with the acceptance of immaturity, parents need to encourage the gradual assumption of more mature behavior—the ability to delay gratification, to accept the fact that others also have needs, to accept responsibility, to learn manners and politeness, and to be comfortable in venturing outside the immediate family environment.

The high HQ home has a reasonable degree of organization without rigidity—predictability of people and daily time schedules. It also has a safe and comfortable physical environment. And it will also offer enough variety of people and events to avoid monotony.

Family integration.
The last, but by no means least, ingredient of a high HQ home is a companionable and well-integrated family. This includes, but is not limited to, families that provide both a father and a mother, families that maintain contact with relatives, and families that engage in recreational activities as a group.

These are the kinds of components that together, make for an effective home environment, one with a high HQ (Home Quotient). Why don't you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being high) on all 7 components and see whether you score at least a 30? And check to see where you are high and low. Congratulate yourself on the highs and work on the lows. If these components are present in your home, you need not worry excessively about isolated episodes of inappropriate parental behavior. The whole is indeed more than the sum of the parts.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education