Parental psychological problems were associated with higher screen time and the use of mature-rated media in children



Parents’ psychological problems may affect children’s screen time, but research has been scarce. We examined the association between parental psychological problems and children’s screen media behaviours in a nationally representative sample.


The participants were from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, recruited by probability sampling from the USA population. Children reported their use of TV, videos, video games, social media and mature-rated media. The parents (85% mothers) reported psychological problems using the Adult Self-Report questionnaire.


In 10,650 children (5112 girls, 5538 boys) aged 9.9 ± 0.6 years, the presence of parental psychological problems was associated with children spending more daily time on screen media and with meeting the recommendation of ≤2 daily hours less often than children whose parents did not have psychological problems. Parental psychological problems were associated with children’s TV watching, video watching and gaming but not with using social media. Parental internalising problems were associated with children watching mature-rated movies (odds ratio [OR] = 1.14, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.00, 1.30) and playing mature-rated games (OR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.11, 1.45).


Presence of parental psychological problems is associated with higher screen time and use of mature-rated media in children. This cross-sectional study was not able to examine causal associations.

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  1. Mark S. Tremblay

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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