OBJECTIVE. The effect of violent television programming on preschoolers’ behaviors is poorly understood. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that exposure to violent television viewing when children are 2 to 5 years of age would be associated with antisocial behavior at ages 7 to 10.
METHODS. Data were derived from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Our primary outcome was being in the 88th percentile of the Behavioral Problem Index antisocial subdomain. Our primary predictor was exposure to violent screen content.
RESULTS. Data were available for 184 boys and 146 girls at both time periods. Adjusting for baseline Behavioral Problem Index scores and age, parental education, maternal depression, and cognitive and emotional support, violent television programming was associated with an increased risk for antisocial behavior for boys but not for girls. Neither educational nor nonviolent programming was associated with increased risk for boys or girls.
CONCLUSIONS. Viewing of violent programming by preschool boys is associated with subsequent aggressive behavior. Modifying the content that is viewed by young children may be warranted.