A new research has drawn a link between anti-social and criminal behaviour by children and adolescents with the amount of television that they watch.

The research says chil­dren and ado­les­cents who watch a lot of tel­e­vi­sion are more likely to ex­hib­it an­ti­so­cial and crim­i­nal be­hav­ior when they be­come adults.

In the study by Uni­vers­ity of Otago, New Zea­land, sci­en­tists tracked about 1,000 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 found to be more likely to have a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion and were al­so more likely to have an­ti­so­cial per­son­al­ity traits in adult­hood.

“While we’re not say­ing that tel­e­vi­sion causes all an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior, our find­ings do sug­gest that re­duc­ing TV view­ing could go some way to­wards re­duc­ing rates of an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior in so­ci­ety,” said study co-author Bob Han­cox.

Too much of TV is bad

Too much of TV is bad

The find­ings are pub­lished on­line in the jour­nal Pe­di­at­rics.

Han­cox and col­leagues found that the risk of hav­ing a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion by early adult­hood in­creased by about 30 per­cent 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 neg­a­tive emo­tions, and an in­creased risk of an­ti­so­cial per­son­al­ity dis­or­der, which is char­ac­ter­ized by per­sist­ent pat­terns of ag­gres­sive and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior.

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

It’s not that chil­dren who were al­ready an­ti­so­cial watched more tel­e­vi­sion, said study co-author Lind­say Rob­ert­son. “Rather, chil­dren who watched a lot of tel­e­vi­sion were likely to go on to man­i­fest an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior and per­son­al­ity traits.”

Oth­er stud­ies have sug­gested a link be­tween tel­e­vi­sion view­ing and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior, though very few have dem­on­strated a cause-and-ef­fect se­quence. The re­search­ers said this is the first “real-life” study that has asked about TV view­ing through­out child­hood, 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, they added, but the find­ings are con­sist­ent with most of the re­search and pro­vides fur­ther ev­i­dence that ex­ces­sive tel­e­vi­sion can have long-term conse­quences for be­hav­ior. The Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Pe­di­at­rics rec­om­mends that chil­dren should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours of qual­ity tel­e­vi­sion pro­gram­ming each day.

.Courtesy of the University of Otago
and World Science staff