Television exposure as a risk factor for aggressive behavior among 3-year-old children

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Nov;163(11):1037-45. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.193.


Objective: To examine associations of child television (TV) exposure and household TV use with aggressive behavior among 3-year-old children while controlling for demographic characteristics and risk and protective factors for aggression.

Design: The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a prospective cohort study.

Setting: Data collected at home and by telephone from parents of children born from 1998 to 2000 from 20 cities.

Participants: Mothers who completed a 36-month in-home survey and met inclusion criteria (n = 3128).

Main exposure: Direct child TV exposure and household TV use were the primary explanatory variables. Additional risk factors included neighborhood disorder and maternal factors like depression.

Outcome measures: Childhood aggression was assessed with the Child Behavior Checklist/2-3. Multivariate linear regression models were used to examine associations between TV measures, additional risk factors, and childhood aggression.

Results: Children who were spanked in the past month (beta = 1.24, P < .001), lived in a disorderly neighborhood (beta = 2.07, P < .001), and had a mother reporting depression (beta = 0.92, P < .001) and parenting stress (beta = 0.16, P < .001) were significantly more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior. Direct child TV exposure (beta = 0.16, P < .001) and household TV use (beta = 0.09, P < .001) were also significantly associated with childhood aggression, even when controlling for other factors.

Conclusions: Three-year-old children exposed to more TV, both directly and indirectly, are at increased risk for exhibiting aggressive behavior. Further research is essential to determine whether pediatric recommendations concerning TV and children should include limits for general household TV use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Punishment
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Television*
  • United States / epidemiology