To identify whether child and mother characteristics in early childhood predict TV exposure and engagement during mealtime in middle childhood.
A total of 220 low-income mother-child dyads participated. Children were 4.26 years old (SD = 0.51) at baseline and 5.94 years (SD = 0.68) at two-year follow-up. Mothers completed baseline measures of child negative emotionality and parenting practices. Family mealtimes were video-recorded and coded for background TV exposure and child TV engagement. Multinomial logistic regression tested whether child emotionality and parenting practices during early childhood predicted risk of child TV exposure or engagement during mealtime, relative to no TV use, two years later.
Children with greater negative emotionality in early childhood were more likely to engage with TV during mealtime than to have no TV. Similarly, early parenting disciplinary practices characterized by over-reactivity and laxness increased the risk for child TV engagement versus no TV during mealtime approximately two years later.
We identified two factors that associated with an increased risk for TV viewing during meals. Helping parents manage child negative emotionality using positive parenting strategies may reduce later child TV engagement and improve the quality of family mealtimes.