Teenagers who watch an hour or more a day of television are four times more likely to be violent as adults than those who spend less time staring at the set, a new study suggests.
And teenagers who view three or more hours daily fare even worse: More than a quarter of early-adolescent boys who do so are more likely as young adults to fight or assault and injure another person, according to Jeffrey G. Johnson, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and a research scientist with the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
He led a team of researchers that studied 707 people over 17 years, examining the correlation between TV viewing and aggressive behavior. Their results were published in the March 29 issue of the journal Science.
Read the study, “TV Violence and Aggressive Behavior,” in the March 29, 2002 issue of Science. (Requires registration; click on article title for information.)
Although considerable research on the subject of television viewing and violence has been conducted over the years, the study is described as one of the first to examine how TV might affect teenagers’ behavior over the long term. The researchers used state and federal crime data, along with their own statistics, to compile their results.
American children watch television 31/2 hours a day on average, or 25 hours a week, according to the National Institute on Media and the Family, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit group.
Among the most noteworthy findings of the new report is that TV viewing is correlated with a heightened risk of violence in teenagers regardless of whether they come from stable, middle-class homes or from low-income families with a history of childhood neglect.
Other findings include:
- Boys who had watched less than an hour of TV a day had a 5.7 percent rate of fighting or assaulting someone as young adults. That proportion jumped to 18.4 percent in those who had watched one to three hours of TV, and rose to 25.3 percent for boys who had watched more than three hours of TV daily.
- Girls who watched less than an hour of television had a 2.3 percent rate of fighting or committing an assault, while those who watched more than three hours had a 9.3 percent rate.
A version of this article appeared in the April 10, 2002 edition of Education Week as Study: Even Hour of TV Daily Is Linked to Later Violence