Disentangling the Relation Between Television Viewing and Cognitive Processes in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Comparison Children


Objectives To develop causal hypotheses regarding the effects of television viewing on cognitive processes in children and to examine the proposition that deleterious effects of television may be stronger among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Design Longitudinal study involving 2 phases occurring 18 months apart. Setting University research facilities in Lexington. Participants Fifty-nine children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and 106 comparison children. The children's mean age was 7.18 years at phase 1 and 8.74 years at phase 2. Main Outcome Measures Laboratory measures of visual attention to television, cognitive engagement to televised stories, factual recall of televised stories, and causal recall of televised stories. Parental reports of a child's weekly television viewing. Results Among comparison children, phase 1 television viewing negatively predicted phase 2 visual attention and phase 2 cognitive engagement (after accounting for phase 1 levels of the outcome variables and any relevant demographic variables). Also among comparison children, phase 1 attention negatively predicted phase 2 television viewing, even after accounting for phase 1 levels of television viewing and relevant demographic variables. These patterns were not observed among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Conclusions Contrary to recent arguments, television viewing was associated with cognitive abilities in comparison children but not children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a finding that suggests more careful examinations of the relation between television viewing and children's cognitive abilities are in order. Future studies should consider the possibility that any effects of television may be limited to certain developmental periods.

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