Positive and Negative Mental Health Consequences of Early Childhood Television Watching

47 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2012 Last revised: 6 Feb 2021

See all articles by Michael Waldman

Michael Waldman

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Sean Nicholson

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Nodir Adilov

Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2012

Abstract

An extensive literature in medicine investigates the health consequences of early childhood television watching. However, this literature does not address the issue of reverse causation, i.e., does early childhood television watching cause specific health outcomes or do children more likely to have these health outcomes watch more television? This paper uses a natural experiment to investigate the health consequences of early childhood television watching and so is not subject to questions concerning reverse causation. Specifically, we use repeated cross-sectional data from 1972 through 1992 on county-level mental retardation rates, county-level autism rates, and county-level children's cable-television subscription rates to investigate how early childhood television watching affects the prevalence of mental retardation and autism. We find a strong negative correlation between average county-level cable subscription rates when a birth cohort is below three and subsequent mental retardation diagnosis rates, but a strong positive correlation between the same cable subscription rates and subsequent autism diagnosis rates. Our results thus suggest that early childhood television watching has important positive and negative health consequences.

Suggested Citation

Waldman, Michael and Nicholson, Sean and Adilov, Nodir, Positive and Negative Mental Health Consequences of Early Childhood Television Watching (January 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w17786, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1992823

Michael Waldman (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-8631 (Phone)

Sean Nicholson

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

120 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-254-6498 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nodir Adilov

Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of Economics
Doermer School of Business
Fort Wayne, IN 46805
United States

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