Previous studies have observed that television (TV) viewing is predictive of obesity and weight gain. We examined whether the cross-sectional association between TV viewing and BMI varied by racial/ethnic subgroups among young women in Wave III (collected in 2001-2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. We used multivariate linear regression to examine the relationship between TV viewing and BMI among 6,049 females while controlling for sociodemographic and health attributes. We stratified the sample by race/ethnicity to better understand the association between TV viewing and BMI across different groups. Black and Hispanic females had higher BMIs (black: 28.5 kg/m(2), Hispanic: 27.3 kg/m(2), white: 26.0 kg/m(2)) than white females, while black females reported higher numbers of hours spent watching TV (black: 14.7 h/week, Hispanic: 10.6 h/week, white: 11.2 h/week) when compared to their white and Hispanic peers. TV viewing was positively associated with BMI (beta = 0.79, P = 0.003 for 8-14 vs. < or =7 h/week; beta = 1.18, P = 0.01 for >14 vs. < or =7 h/week) independent of race/ethnicity, age, maternal education, history of pregnancy, parental obesity, and household income. However, in models stratified by race/ethnicity, increased TV viewing was associated with increased BMI only among white females; TV viewing was not predictive of higher BMI in black or Hispanic young adult females. Among black and Hispanic females, counseling to decrease TV viewing may be important but insufficient for promoting weight loss.