Excessive TV in Childhood Linked to Long-term Antisocial Behaviour

First Posted: Feb 18, 2013 02:41 PM EST

A new study from the University of Otago, New Zealand shows that children and adolescents who watch a lot of television are more likely to have antisocial or criminal behavior when they become adults.

The study, published in the U.S. journal Pediatrics, followed a group of around 1000 children born in the New Zealand city of Dunedin in 1972-73. Every two years between the ages of 5 and 15, they were asked how much television they watched. Those who watched more television were more likely to have a criminal conviction and were also more likely to have antisocial personality traits in adulthood.

Study co-author Associate Professor Bob Hancox of the University's Department of Preventive and Social Medicine said he and colleagues found with every hour of television watched each weeknight, the likelihood of a an early adulthood criminal conviction increased by 30 percent.

The study also found that watching more television in childhood was associated, in adulthood, with aggressive personality traits, an increased tendency to experience negative emotions, and an increased risk of antisocial personality disorder; a psychiatric disorder characterised by persistent patterns of aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

However, researchers found that the relationship between TV viewing and antisocial behaviour could not be explained by socio-economic status, aggressive or antisocial behaviour in early childhood, or parenting factors.

The reverse cannot be said of children watching excessive amounts of television and social status, according to study co-author, Lindsay Robertson. "Rather, children who watched a lot of television were likely to go on to manifest antisocial behaviour and personality traits."

Other studies have suggested a link between television viewing and antisocial behaviour, though very few have been able to demonstrate a cause-and-effect sequence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality television programming each day. The researchers say their findings support the idea that parents should try to limit their children's television use.

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