TV And Lack Of Parenting
Contribute To Violent
Child Behavior
NEW YORK - Whether children will engage in violent behavior appears to depend primarily on several factors, including their exposure to violence, television viewing and a lack of parental oversight, according to the results of a study published in the October issue of Pediatrics.
Lead author Dr. Mark Singer, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleagues surveyed 2,245 Ohio public school youngsters ranging in age from 7 to 15 during the 1995 - 1996 academic year, representing "one of the largest investigations to date on the relationship between violence exposure and violent behaviors" in children.
Children from three areas were included in the study " the inner city, a relatively small urban area, and a rural locale. The authors found "high rates of exposure to violence and violent behaviors among elementary and middle school children" in all sites.
Along with detailed queries about exposure to violence and engaging in violent behavior, the survey included questions about how closely parents monitor their children's whereabouts and choice of friends. In addition, information was obtained about television viewing habits. More than 20% of respondents claimed to view over 6 hours of television daily.
Upon statistical analysis of the children's responses, Singer and colleagues determined that "violence exposure variables were powerful contributors to the prediction of violent behavior" as was the "parental monitoring score." That is, children who lacked close monitoring by parents "reported significantly higher levels of violent behavior" than did more carefully monitored youngsters.
"Television-viewing habits made modest yet statistically significant contributions to the... violent behavior scores," the authors add.
Among the study findings was that "across geographic sites and genders, children's reports of being threatened or slappedhitpunched at home were quite uniform." Sexual abuse was reported by more girls than boys, while "rates of witnessing violence were high for both genders," although greater at school than at home, according to the report. The investigators note that inner-city students reported witnessing "the highest percentages of... more serious forms of violence (i.e., beatings, knife attacksstabbings, and shootings)."
Regarding the survey participants' own violent behaviors, Singer and colleagues found that "almost without exception, boys reported higher rates of violence towards others than did girls," though both sexes engage in these behaviors.
For the authors, the implications of their findings are clear: "our study... illustrates the strength of violence exposure and the importance of parental monitoring and television viewing as contributors to children's risk for engaging in violence."
They recommend that medical professionals "(screen) for violence exposure... (to identify) children who are at high risk of exhibiting violent behaviors and (provide) them with appropriate referrals to address these potential behaviors as well as to minimize (the children's) future exposure to violence."