Association of television viewing during childhood with poor educational achievement

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jul;159(7):614-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.159.7.614.

Abstract

Background: Excessive television viewing in childhood has been associated with adverse effects on health and behavior. A common concern is that watching too much television may also have a negative impact on education. However, no long-term studies have measured childhood viewing and educational achievement.

Objective: To explore these associations in a birth cohort followed up to adulthood.

Design: Prospective birth cohort study.

Setting: Dunedin, New Zealand.

Participants: Approximately 1000 unselected individuals born between April 1, 1972, and March 31, 1973. Ninety-six percent of the living cohort participated at 26 years of age.

Main outcome measures: Educational achievement by 26 years of age.

Results: The mean time spent watching television during childhood and adolescence was significantly associated with leaving school without qualifications and negatively associated with attaining a university degree. Risk ratios for each hour of television viewing per weeknight, adjusted for IQ and sex, were 1.43 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.24-1.65) and 0.75 (95% CI, 0.67-0.85), respectively (both, P<.001). The findings were similar in men and women and persisted after further adjustment for socioeconomic status and early childhood behavioral problems. Television viewing during childhood (ages 5-11 years) and adolescence (ages 13 and 15 years) had adverse associations with later educational achievement. However, adolescent viewing was a stronger predictor of leaving school without qualifications, whereas childhood viewing was a stronger predictor of nonattainment of a university degree.

Conclusions: Television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with poor educational achievement by 26 years of age. Excessive television viewing in childhood may have long-lasting adverse consequences for educational achievement and subsequent socioeconomic status and well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Cohort Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Television*
  • Underachievement*
  • Visual Perception*