Does TV viewing during toddlerhood predict social difficulties and conduct problems?

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5 Scopus citations


Some research suggests that various features of screen media use (e.g., television viewing) may promote or interfere with cognitive, social, or behavioural development. Nevertheless, empirical investigations of the link between features of TV/media use among very young subjects (e.g., toddlers) and subsequent social interactions with peers at school using nationally representative samples are lacking. The present study employs data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, and a quasi-experimental, propensity score matching design to explore the link between 3 components of TV viewing during toddlerhood (excessive viewing, unattended viewing, and adult content viewing), social difficulties, and conduct problems at school during the kindergarten school year. The results reveal that the risk of social difficulties with peers at school is heightened when family members do not engage in interactive TV viewing with toddlers or when toddlers primarily view adult programming. In contrast, excessive TV viewing among toddlers was not predictive of either social or behavioural problems upon entry into kindergarten in the matched sample. Ultimately, and in line with recent American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, the findings suggest that interactive, engaged viewing of age-appropriate content may be a more useful approach than simply limiting the amount of TV that toddlers are watching. Highlights: The present study explores toddler TV viewing and later social/behavioral development. Using Propensity Score Matching techniques, unattended and age-inappropriate viewing during toddlerhood was associated with an increased risk of social difficulties during kindergarten. Aspects of viewing content and context during toddlerhood may be linked to social development during early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2086
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • childhood
  • interactive
  • peers
  • social difficulties
  • television
  • toddlerhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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