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Behavioral correlates of television viewing in primary school children evaluated by the child behavior checklist PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 01 September 2002 00:00
“BACKGROUND: Television is a source from which children gain information about life and experience different types of behavior. The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) has not been used thoroughly to evaluate the behavioral effects of television viewing on children. OBJECTIVE: To examine the competency and problem behavior correlates of television viewing in school-aged children using the CBCL. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. SETTING: Two randomly selected grade schools, one from a high-income district and the other from a low-income district. PARTICIPANTS: Students in grades 2 and 3 and their parents. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: A questionnaire on children's time spent watching television and engaging in other daily activities and the CBCL were sent to the parents of 888 second- and third-grade students. RESULTS: Results of the questionnaire reported that the overall mean +/- SD daily television viewing time was 2.5 +/- 1.3 hours. Overall television viewing time had a negative correlation with social and school achievement (r = -0.17, P<.001 and r = 0.11, P =.03, respectively) subscale scores. Withdrawn (r = 0.11, P =.004), social problem (r = 0.14, P =.001), thought problem (r = 0.11, P =.03), attention problem (r = 0.20, P<.001), delinquent behavior (r = 0.12, P<.001), aggressive behavior (r = 0.22, P<.001), and externalization (r = 0.19, P<.001) subscales and total problem (r = 0.15, P<.001) scores were positively correlated with time spent watching television. Stepwise logistic regression analysis revealed that the only significant variables associated with a risk of watching television for more than 2 hours were age, gender, social subscale, and attention problem subscale scores of the CBCL. CONCLUSION: As evaluated by the CBCL, television viewing time is positively associated with social problems, delinquent behavior, aggressive behavior, externalization, and total problem scores. Older age, male gender, and decreasing social subscale and increasing attention problem subscale scores on the CBCL increases the risk of watching television for more than 2 hours.”

“Children learn about life, exercise problem solving skills, and develop their own character by watching and experiencing the world around them. It has been stated that the average child or adolescent in the United States watches an average of 3 hours of television per day, and by the time he or she reaches 70 years of age, he or she will have spent the equivalent of 7 to 10 years watching television.”

“Television gives children a distorted image of the world, as children have difficulty in discriminating reality from fantasy on television. The results of the cultivation effect of television on children are widely studied, but the effects of television on human beings are too complicated to study thoroughly and then to specify cause-effect relationships.”

“Violence is the most widely studied subject in the field of pediatrics, and 2 recent meta-analysis investigating the relationship between violence viewed on television and aggressive behavior in children concluded the exposure to portrayals of violence on television was associated consistently with children's behavior. Other studies have blamed television for causing conduct disorder, symptoms of psychological trauma, social skill difficulties, anorexia nervosa, nutritional changes, dieting and obesity, and substance use and abuse, and for negatively affecting sexuality and body concept and self-image. The effect of television on school performance is also widely studied; there are reports of positive and negative effects. Social status and intelligence quotient seem to play important roles, as does the content of programs viewed.”

“The Parent Report form of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) is widely used to assess behavioral problems and social competency of children aged 4 through 16 years. It has strong psychometric properties. To our knowledge, the CBCL has not been used thoroughly to examine the effects of television viewing on child behavior. This study was performed to examine the competency and problem behavior correlates of television viewing using the CBCL in school-aged children.”

“… children watching 2 hours or less constituted the low television watching group (group 1), children watching 2 to 4 hours constituted the medium television watching group (group 2), and children watching more than 4 hours constituted the high television watching group (group 3).”

“Overall television viewing time was negatively correlated with social and school achievement subscale scores (r=-0.17, P<.001 and r=0.11, P=0.3, respectively). Scores for withdrawn (r=0.11, P=.004), social problem (r=0.14, P=.001), thought problem (r=0.11, P=0.3), attention problem (r=0.20, P<.001), delinquent behavior (r=0.12, P<.001), aggressive behavior (r=0.22, P<.001), and externalization (r=0.19, P<.001) subscales and total problem scale (r=0.15, P<.001) were positively correlated with the time spent watching television. Although these correlations were significant statistically, they were of low grade.”

“Although there are studies reporting the contrary, most researchers agree that television violence causes aggressive behavior. It is not easy to perform a study that will explain the causal relationship between television violence and aggression, but the evidence gathered thus far suggests that a relationship exists in some way. In our study, children in group 3, who watched the most television, were found to have higher scores in delinquent behavior and aggressive behavior subscales that those in group 1. The aggressive behavior subscale scores of group 2 were also higher than the scores of group 1. Further strengthening the relationship, television viewing time was found to be correlated positively with these 2 scores. In a recent intervention study by Robinson et al, it was shown that decreasing exposure to television decreased aggressive behavior in children in the third and fourth grades. In our study and in that study, program selections was not made. Both studies show that increased television exposure is positively associated with aggressive behavior irrespective of the content of the programs. Apart from the content of the programs, the duration of viewing seems to be a determinant of aggressive behavior.”

“… it was speculated that not only the prolonged television viewing but perhaps the inactivity and social isolation while watching television may have contributed to increased aggressive behavior scores.”

“There was no association between the time spent viewing television and the time spent reading and studying that may have contributed to the low school achievement in group 3. However, group 1 was found to have lower attention problem scores than group 2 and 3. Also, we found attention problem scores than groups 2 and 3. Also, we found attention problem scores to be positively associated with television viewing time. Although no association between school achievement and television viewing time could be demonstrated after stepwise logistic regression, the association persisted for attention scores.”

“The stepwise logistic regression also revealed a positive association between age and the risk of watching television for more than 2 hours. It was found that for each 1-year increase in age, the risk of watching television for more than 2 hours increased by 33% in this age group (7-10 years) of children. Stepwise analysis also found a significant association between gender and watching television. Male gender increased the risk of watching television for more than 2 hours by 1.6 times. In the literature, there are different results of the association between gender and watching television.”

“Moller-Nehring et al, examining patients between 1989 and 1994, reported that spending more time watching television is related to the appearance of conduct disorders. Singer et al, studying 2245 third- through eighth-grade students, claimed that showing signs of psychological trauma can be related to watching television. The results of our study and others are not enough to blame television for causing conduct disorder or other psychological problems, but they are serious enough to consider television watching as a risk factor for behavioral problems and to suggest that physicians consider their patients' television viewing habits. The association between watching television and behavioral problems may be in either direction. Children with behavioral problems may watch television longer or prolonged television watching may cause behavioral problems. In either direction, it deserves further consideration. Prolonged television watching may be considered to be one of the new symptoms of this era of technology, and it deserves more attention and evaluation in every aspect. Families should be advised to restrict the television viewing hours of their children and encourage them to participate in active peer relationships.”


Elif Özmert, MD, PhD; Müge Toyran, MD; and Kadriye Yurdakök, "Behavioral correlates of television viewing in primary school children evaluated by the child behavior checklist", Archives Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, September 1, 2002, Vol. 156, Num. 0, pp. 910-914

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