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Associations Between Parenting, Media Use, Cumulative Risk, and Children's Executive Functioning

Linebarger, Deborah L. PhD*; Barr, Rachel PhD; Lapierre, Matthew A. PhD; Piotrowski, Jessica T. PhD§

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: July/August 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 6 - p 367–377
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000069
Original Article

Objective: This study was designed to examine how parenting style, media exposure, and cumulative risk were associated with executive functioning (EF) during early childhood.

Methods: A nationally representative group of US parents/caregivers (N = 1156) with 1 child between 2 and 8 years participated in a telephone survey. Parents were asked to report on their child's exposure to television, music, and book reading through a 24-hour time diary. Parents also reported a host of demographic and parenting variables as well as questions on their child's EF.

Results: Separate multiple regressions for preschool (2–5 years) and school-aged (6–8 years) children grouped by cumulative risk were conducted. Parenting style moderated the risks of exposure to background television on EF for high-risk preschool-age children. Educational TV exposure served as a buffer for high-risk school-aged children. Cumulative risk, age, and parenting quality interacted with a number of the exposure effects.

Conclusions: The study showed a complex pattern of associations between cumulative risk, parenting, and media exposure with EF during early childhood. Consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics, these findings support the recommendation that background television should be turned off when a child is in the room and suggest that exposure to high-quality content across multiple media platforms may be beneficial.

*Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA;

Department of Psychology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC;

Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC;

§Department of Communication, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Address for reprints: Deborah L. Linebarger, PhD, Department of Teaching and Learning, College of Education, N278 Lindquist Center, Teaching and Learning, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242; e-mail:

Supported by a grant to Dr. D. L. Linebarger under a cooperative agreement between the US Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Public Broadcasting System for the Ready to Learn Initiative (PR# U295A050003).

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received September , 2013

Accepted April , 2014

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins