Excessive TV in childhood linked to long-term antisocial behaviour

February 18, 2013, University of Otago

Children and adolescents who watch a lot of television are more likely to manifest antisocial and criminal behaviour when they become adults, according to a new University of Otago, New Zealand, study published online in the US journal Pediatrics.

The study followed a group of around 1000 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 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 says he and colleagues found that the risk of having a criminal conviction by early adulthood increased by about 30% with every hour that children spent watching TV on an average weeknight.

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

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

A study co-author, Lindsay Robertson, says it is not that children who were already antisocial watched more television. "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 and antisocial behaviour, though very few have been able to demonstrate a cause-and-effect sequence. This is the first 'real-life' study that has asked about TV viewing throughout the whole childhood period, and has looked at a range of antisocial outcomes in adulthood. As an observational study, it cannot prove that watching too much television caused the antisocial outcomes, but the findings are consistent with most of the research and provides further evidence that excessive television can have long-term consequences for behaviour.

"Antisocial behaviour is a major problem for society. While we're not saying that television causes all antisocial behaviour, our findings do suggest that reducing TV viewing could go some way towards reducing rates of antisocial behaviour in society," says Associate Professor Hancox.

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.

Explore further: The dark path to antisocial personality disorder

Related Stories

The dark path to antisocial personality disorder

February 7, 2012
With no lab tests to guide the clinician, psychiatric diagnostics is challenging and controversial. Antisocial personality disorder is defined as "a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others ...

Study reveals brain changes in teenage girls with severe antisocial behaviour

October 24, 2012
Teenage girls with severe antisocial behaviour show abnormal changes in the structure of their brains, according to a study published today. The findings support previous studies in boys that suggested the brains of teenagers ...

New research finds extreme antisocial personality predicts gang membership

November 9, 2011
Research into the 2011 London riots found they were mostly committed by antisocial persons, less than 20% of whom were explicitly gang members. This is because gang membership is primarily for the most antisocial of such ...

Recommended for you

Phone-addicted teens are unhappy, study finds

January 22, 2018
Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.