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Original Investigation |

Parental Cultural Attitudes and Beliefs Regarding Young Children and Television

Wanjiku F. M. Njoroge, MD1; Laura M. Elenbaas, BA3; Michelle M. Garrison, PhD2; Mon Myaing, PhD2; Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Seattle Children’s Hospital, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle
2Department of Health Services, Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle
3Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, College Park
JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(8):739-745. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.75.
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Importance  Research has shown that preschool-aged children spend considerable time with media, and risks and benefits for cognitive and behavioral outcomes exist depending on what is watched and how it is watched.

Objective  To examine the associations among child race/ethnicity, parental beliefs/attitudes about television (TV) and child development, and TV viewing habits of young children, and to assess reasons for existing racial/ethnic disparities in children’s media use.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Parents completed demographic questionnaires, reported on attitudes regarding media’s risks and benefits to their children, and completed 1-week media diaries where they recorded all of the programs their children watched. Enrollment was from March 13, 2009, to April 12, 2010. The study was conducted at 2 metropolitan Seattle pediatric clinics and an academic practice network, each serving a diverse population of patients, and involved a community-based sample of 596 parents of children aged 3 to 5 years.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Parental beliefs/attitudes regarding screen time and TV viewing habits of young children.

Results  Overall, children watched an average (SD) of 462.0 (315.5) minutes of TV per week. African American children watched more TV per week than non-Hispanic white children (mean [SD], 638.0 [450.9] vs 431.0 [282.6] minutes; P < .01); however, these differences were no longer statistically significant after controlling for attitudes and demographic covariates (eg, family socioeconomic status). It is important to note that socioeconomic status confounded the results for race/ethnicity, and the association between race/ethnicity and media time across the sample was no longer statistically significant after adjusting for family socioeconomic status. However, significant differences were found between parents of ethnically/racially diverse children and parents of non-Hispanic white children regarding the perceived positive effects of TV viewing, even when parental education and family income were taken into account.

Conclusions and Relevance  Differences in parental beliefs/attitudes regarding the effects of media on early childhood development may help explain growing racial/ethnic disparities in child media viewing/habits, but more research is needed to understand the cultural nuances of the observed differences.

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