Parenting style and family type, but not child temperament, are associated with television viewing time in children at two years of age

Objectives

Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommending that electronic media be avoided in children under two years of age, screen use is common in infants and toddlers. The aims of this study were to determine how parenting style, infant temperament, and family type are associated with television viewing in two-year-old children.

Study design

Participants were from the Prevention of Overweight in Infancy (POI) randomized controlled trial (n = 802) (Dunedin, New Zealand). Demographic information was collected at baseline (late pregnancy), and television and other screen time assessed by questionnaire at 24 months of age. Parenting style (Parenting Practices Questionnaire), infant temperament (Colorado Childhood Temperament Inventory), and family type (7 categories) were reported by both parents.

Results

Data were available for 487 participants (61% of the original participants). Median television viewing was relatively low at 21 minutes per day, or 30 minutes in those watching television (82%). Children who watched television played with mobile phones (12% of children) or iPads/tablets (22% of children) more frequently than children who did not (6% of children). In terms of parenting style, children of more authoritarian mothers (β = 17, 95% CI: 6–27 minutes), more authoritarian partners (β = 14, 95% CI: 2–26 minutes), or more permissive mothers (β = 10, 95% CI: 3–17 minutes) watched significantly more television. No significant relationships were observed between child temperament and time watching television after adjustment for confounding variables. Children from “active” families (as rated by partners) watched 29 minutes less television each day (P = 0.002).

Conclusions

Parenting style and family type were associated with television viewing time in young children, whereas child temperament was not.