Parental socioeconomic status, adolescents' screen time and sports participation through externalizing and internalizing characteristics

Heliyon. 2020 Feb 17;6(2):e03415. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03415. eCollection 2020 Feb.


The socioeconomic status of parents is reportedly closely related to the digital screen usage and physical inactivity levels of children and adolescents. Internalizing and externalizing behavior characteristics may be linked to these associations and explain them. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of parents' socioeconomic status (SES) on youths' total screen time along with physical inactivity through internalizing and externalizing behavior characteristics. Thus, we examined associations between parents' socioeconomic status (using scores based on several indicators) and adolescents' total digital screen exposure and physical inactivity level, together with the potentially predicting role of the adolescents' internalizing and externalizing behavior. For this, we assessed the internalizing and externalizing problem characteristics, total screen time exposure, physical inactivity level and parental socioeconomic status of a large cohort sample of Finnish adolescents (the Northern Birth Cohort, 1986 comprised 2899 males and 3059 females). The present study includes data collected in two phases, in 1985-1986 and 2000-2001. Path modeling suggests that a low SES of parents was directly associated with adolescents' physical inactivity level, while externalizing characteristics were a significant and additional contributing factor in adolescents' level of screen exposure in both genders. Gender moderated the relationship between adolescents' internalizing and externalizing characteristics and physical inactivity levels. The results also suggest that parents' socioeconomic status constitutes a risk factor in relation to media screen exposure only in female adolescents. Implications of the findings are discussed.

Keywords: Adolescent; Computers; Mental health; Psychology; Socioeconomic; Television; Video games.