Objective: To test the hypothesis that maternal mental distress is associated with excessive television viewing by infants and toddlers. Methods: We used data from maternal respondents to the National Survey of Early Childhood Health, a nationally representative cross-sectional study on the health of children aged 4-35 months. Our main outcome measure was television hours viewed per day. Our main predictor was the Mental Health Inventory 5, a short screening tool used in this study to identify mothers with mental distress. We used a previously validated cutoff score of 21. Multivariate negative binomial regression was used to determine the independent association between maternal mental distress and a child's television viewing per day. Results: Data were available from 1793 mothers. A total of 21% of mothers were found to have mental distress. Children of mothers without mental distress watch significantly less TV (1.6 hours per day; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-1.7) than children of mothers with mental distress (2.1 hours per day; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-2.5) (P = .02). In a multivariate regression model, children of mothers with mental distress watch 25% more television per day than children of mothers without mental distress (rate ratio 1.25 [1.03-1.51]). The numbers in the brackets refer to the 95% Confidence Interval. Conclusions: For children younger than 3 years, having a mother with mental distress is associated with increased television viewing. The mental health of mothers should be considered in any intervention aimed at reducing television viewing time in this population.
- mental health
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health