Washington: Children and adolescents who watch a lot of television are more likely to develop anti-social and criminal behaviour when they become adults, a new study has claimed.

According to researchers at the University of Otago, New Zealand, those children who watched more television were likely to have a criminal conviction and were also more likely to have antisocial personality traits in adulthood.

A study co-author, Lindsay Robertson, says it is not that children who were already antisocial watched more television "Rather, children who watched a lot of television were likely to go on to manifest antisocial behaviour and personality traits."

The researchers followed a group of around 1000 children born in New Zealand city of Dunedin in 1972-73. Every two years between the ages of 5 and 15, they were asked how much television they watched and their TV viewing habit was monitored.

It was found that the risk of having a criminal conviction by early adulthood increased by about 30 percent with every hour that children spent watching TV on an average weeknight.

The study also found that watching more TV in childhood was associated, in adulthood, with aggressive personality traits, an increased tendency to experience negative emotions, and an increased risk of antisocial personality disorder; a psychiatric disorder characterised by persistent patterns of aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

The relationship between TV viewing and anti-social behaviour was not explained by socio-economic status, aggressive or antisocial behaviour in early childhood, or parenting factors.

"Antisocial behaviour is a major problem for society. While we're not saying that television causes all antisocial behaviour, our findings do suggest that reducing TV viewing could go some way towards reducing rates of antisocial behaviour in society," says Associate Professor Hancox.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that children should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality television programming each day. The study was published online in the US journal Pediatrics.


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