|Abstract: ||While studies have shown that television, in particular educational programming, may have positive effects on young children, such as the acquisition of language skills (e.g., Wright et al., 2001), most research has demonstrated that watching television, especially in large amounts, is associated with several negative outcomes. Television viewing has been associated, for instance, with decreased fitness (e.g., Tremblay et al., 2011), obesity (e.g., Dennison & Edmunds, 2008), and sleep disorders (e.g., Garrison, Liekweg, & Christakis, 2011). However, these findings, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations to limit screen time exposure among young children (AAP, 2011), do not prevent that young children spend a substantial amount of time watching television (Rideout, Vandewater, & Wartella, 2003). This indicates that the AAP recommendations may not be sufficiently effective (McCarthy, 2013). There seems to be a need for interventions that encourage parents to limit children’s television exposure.
In order to develop effective interventions to reduce television viewing, understanding parental predictors of children’s television exposure is crucial (Hinkley, Salmon, Okely, & Crawford, 2013). Therefore, building on the framework of Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991) and using structural equation modeling, we investigated how parents’ attitudes, perceived norms and perceived behavioral control are related to children’s television exposure, through parents’ intention to allow (Model 1) as well as their intention to not allow (Model 2) their children to watch television.
Parents (N = 282) of children aged six months to six years (Mean age = 3.81, SD = 1.56; 53.9% boys) completed standardized questionnaires. The findings point to a strong need for interventions dealing with social pressure, because parents’ intentions primarily depend on perceived descriptive (allow: β = .17, B = 0.26, SE = 0.09, p < .01; not allow: β = -.19, B = -.30, SE = 0.09, p < .01) and injunctive norms (allow: β = .18, B = 0.25, SE = 0.08, p < .01; not allow: β = -.12, B = -.18, SE = 0.09, p = .05). The most important parental cognition to target in interventions is self-efficacy, because children watched more television when parents experienced less control (β = -.42, B = -6.19, SE = 0.99, p < .001). Further, while intention to allow children to watch television positively predicted children’s television exposure (β = .24, B = 1.74, SE = 0.40, p < .001), intention to not allow children to watch television negatively predicted children’s television exposure (β = -.20, B = -1.44, SE = 0.38, p < .001). Parents’ positive attitudes were a significant predictor of the intention to not allow (β = -.18, B = -.46, SE = 0.17, p < .01), but not of the intention to allow (β = .09, B = 0.23, SE = 0.15, p = .122). The AIC, BIC and ECVI, with smaller values indicating a better fit (Kline, 2005), and the AIC- and BIC-differences (ΔAICi = 11.903; ΔBICi = 15.531) revealed that the model for parents’ intention to allow children to watch television was the best-fitting model.