Children and adolescents who watch a lot of
television are more likely to become involved in antisocial
and criminal behaviour as adults, a University of Otago study
One of the study co-authors, Associate Prof Bob Hancox, said
the research showed the issue of excessive television
watching needed to be ''taken seriously''.
Researchers found the risk of a criminal conviction by early
adulthood increased by about 30% with every hour children
spent watching TV on an average week night.
And watching more television in childhood was associated,
later, with aggressive personality traits and an increased
tendency to experience negative emotions.
There was also an increased risk of developing an
antisocial personality disorder; a psychiatric disorder
characterised by persistent patterns of aggressive and
antisocial behaviour, the study found.
Prof Hancox said the study ''provides further evidence that
excessive TV watching can lead to poor behaviour''.
The study, co-authored by Lindsay Robertson, Prof Hancox and
Dr Helena McAnally, of the Otago preventive and social
medicine department, was published online yesterday by the US
journal Pediatrics. The study followed
1000 children born in Dunedin in 1972-73 who are part of the
Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.
Every two years between 5 and 15, they were asked how much
television they watched. They watched an average of 2.3 hours
The researchers found the relationship between TV viewing and
antisocial behaviour was not explained by socioeconomic
status, aggressive or antisocial behaviour in early
childhood, or parenting factors. Mosgiel resident Gina
Aitken, whose family is not involved in the study, said her
three children were all keen television viewers.
But they also had a wide range of interests, including
sports, reading and socialising.
Mrs Aitken agreed with the idea of limiting viewing, and said
homework was a priority on week nights and extra reading was
encouraged at home.
The study could not clarify what might contribute to the
adverse effects but watching too much violence could be a
And too much television could also adversely affect homework,
potentially contributing to poorer educational, employment
and life outcomes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should
watch no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality television each