Title: The relationship between parental work demands and children’s television time
Authors: Beyens, Ine ×
Eggermont, Steven #
Issue Date: Feb-2013
Conference: Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap location:Rotterdam, The Netherlands date:7-8 February 2013
Abstract: While there is some evidence for positive outcomes of television exposure, several studies among young children have found television to be associated with sleep disorders (e.g., Thompson & Christakis, 2005), obesity ( e.g., Dennison & Edmunds, 2008), and attention problems (e.g., Zimmerman & Christakis, 2007), among others. In this respect, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends to limit screen media exposure among young children (AAP, 2009; 2011). Nonetheless, young children spend substantial amounts of their time with television (Rideout & Hamel, 2006). Because young children’s time with television is to a large extent controlled by their parents, it is important to understand what causes parents to have their children watch television. Research has revealed that parents, and working parents in particular, often feel unable to devote substantial time and energy to their children or to actively involve with their children, which makes it difficult to reduce children’s viewing time (Evans, Jordan, & Horner, 2011). An explanation for this may be found in time conflict theory (Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux, & Brinley, 2005), which states that people are urged to divide their time and energy between work and family. Along these lines, it has been shown that more demanding work characteristics decrease the time parents spend with their child (e.g., Roeters, Van Der Lippe, & Kluwer, 2010). For instance, Brown, McBride, Bost and Shin (2011) showed that parents who worked longer hours played less with their child. However, the impact of parental work demands on the amount of children’s television viewing time remains largely unexamined. Therefore, the current study investigates the impact of parental working hours on the time children spend watching television. More specifically, the aim of this study is to contribute to the existing literature by testing hypotheses derived from time conflict theory (Eby et al., 2005) in an integrative model. The first hypothesis will test whether higher parental work demands, as indicated by parents’ working hours, result in parental distress and, subsequently, parenting time pressure,
which in turn discourages parents to participate in shared activities with their children. Because scholars have argued that how parents engage with their children is important (Huston & Rosenkrantz Aronson, 2005), the second hypothesis will test whether the impact of work demands is stronger for shared play than for shared television viewing. Finally, the question arises as to how these shared activities relate to children’s television time. In this regard, we will test two hypotheses predicting that shared play and shared television viewing are related to children’s television viewing time.
Data from 855 parents of children aged six months to six years (M = 3.04, SD = 1.713) are reported. An integrative model was constructed and structural equation modeling was performed to assess the hypothesized relationships. All analyses were performed using AMOS.
Results showed that high working hours make parents feel more time pressured in their parenting, β = .13, B = .01, SE = .00. However, contrary to our expectations, this relationship was not mediated by parental distress, because parents’ working hours were not a significant predictor of parental distress, β = -.01, B = -.00, SE = .00. Subsequently, parenting time pressure discourages parents to play together with their child and to watch television together with their child (β = -.37, B = -.69, SE = .09 for play; β = -.11, B = -.28, SE = .11 for television viewing). The critical ratio for differences showed that the impact of working hours, mediated by parenting time pressure, was significantly stronger on shared play than on shared television viewing (crfd = 2.997). Finally, the findings revealed that less parent-child shared play increases children’s television time, β = -.17, B = -1.08, SE = .24, and that less parent-child television viewing decreases children’s viewing time, β = .21, B = 1.00, SE = .18.
This study emphasizes the role of parents’ work demands as an important contributor to children’s television time. The findings of this study have several important implications. First, being less involved in watching television with a child, may well decrease the child’s
total television time, it may also imply that the child watches more television unsupervised. Second, the finding that less parent-child play increases children’s television time, implies that the more developmentally appropriate parent-child play is displaced by time spent watching television, which is a less cognitively stimulating activity. The latter finding should especially warrant us, because parents’ work demands appear to be most influential on parent-child play.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: AMa
Appears in Collections:Leuven School for Mass Communication Research
Formerly "Subfaculteit Antwerpen/Taal & Communicatie - TM A"
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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