TV Watching, Parental Support Predict Bullying


Children who receive cognitive stimulation and emotional support from their parents when they are 4 years old are less likely to become bullies, but early television watching promotes bullying, reported Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Washington, Seattle.

The results lend support to theories that bullying tendencies arise from cognitive as well as emotional problems. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis, the investigators reviewed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Children and Young Adults on 1,266 children aged 6–11 years (Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 2005;159:384–8).

A single standard-deviation increase in each of the emotional support and cognitive stimulation scores at age 4 years was associated with a 33% decrease in the odds of becoming a bully in elementary school (odds ratio 0.67). The investigators reported that a standard-deviation “increase in the number of hours of television watched at age 4 years was associated with an approximate 25% increase in the probability of being described as a bully by the child's mother at ages 6 through 11 years.” The odds ratio for each hour of television watched per day was 1.06.

About 49% of the children were female, and about 80% were white. Only one significant difference appeared after controlling for parental education and income, and the age, sex, and race of the child: Being of African American ethnicity was associated with decreased bullying.

The study was limited by its use of maternal reports and the absence of a standard definition for the term bully, Dr. Zimmerman and his associates commented.

“Maximizing cognitive stimulation and limiting television watching in the early years of development might reduce children's subsequent risk of becoming bullies,” the investigators noted.

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