Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Robert C. Hornik


Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed their official policy discouraging screen media use with children under two (AAP, 2011). Their statement counters the normative use of TV/ video products with infants and toddlers, as parent surveys indicate the majority of these children watch TV/videos regularly. This dissertation research was designed with the underlying premise that the majority of existing research links heavy infant/toddler television and video exposure to disadvantageous health and developmental outcomes and many clinicians and child advocates seek to reduce that exposure. As little is known about the factors associated with more or less screen media use with infants and toddlers, this study examines in-depth the maternal cognitive and structural life circumstance factors predictive of TV/video exposure rates among very young children.

Guided by the Integrative Model of Behavioral Prediction (Fishbein & Ajzen, 2010), this survey study examines the relationships between children's estimated rates of foreground and background TV/video exposure and their mothers' demographics (e.g., race/ethnicity), structural life circumstances (e.g., number of children in the home; employment), and cognitions (e.g., attitudes; norms). Thus, this study essentially tests two competing explanations for infants' and toddlers' TV/video exposure: (1) that mothers base their children's TV/video exposure on their own psycho-social cognitions about that exposure; and (2) that mothers are more or less apt to allow their child to be exposed to TV/video based on unalterable realities of their lives, regardless of TV/video-related cognitions.

The results suggest that mothers' structural circumstances and cognitions (i.e., attitudes, normative pressure, and perceived behavioral control) respectively contribute independent explanatory power to the prediction of children's background and foreground TV/video exposure, though demographic factors explain very little variance in each case. Mothers' attitudes as well as their own TV/video viewing behavior were particularly strong predictors of each type of child media exposure. With regards to foreground TV/video exposure, mothers' regulatory focus orientation and beliefs about early childhood brain development moderated relationships between discrete beliefs regarding infant/toddler TV/video exposure and broader integrative model constructs in notable ways. Implications of these findings for behavioral prediction theory and for future campaigns to reduce infant/toddler TV/video exposure are discussed.

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