There is much debate as to whether exposure to television programming aimed at young children is beneficial or harmful. Some experts believe that infants are deprived of valuable parent-child interaction and play time, critical elements of child development, when they are exposed to too much child-directed programming. However, other experts believe that much of the programming designed for young children and infants can provide them with necessary language tools and skills that they may not otherwise receive from their caregivers, especially in situations where caregivers have limited social, verbal, and educational experience.
Depressed mothers of young children are more likely to experience deficits in healthy communication and interaction with their infants. The negative feelings that accompany depression can impair a mother’s ability to engage with her child and limit her willingness and motivation to teach through game playing and verbal cues. Many depressed mothers turn to the television as a source of distraction from their rumination. They may create relationships with characters on television to replace the unhealthy relationships in their own lives. Additionally, depressed mothers, and nondepressed mothers, often rely on the television as a babysitter for their children.
To understand the trend of television usage in depressed mothers, Anna M. Bank of the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University led a study that looked at what type of programming 84 depressed mothers most often exposed their infants to. Based on information gathered from a questionnaire and interview, Bank found that the children of depressed mothers were exposed to more television overall than the children of nondepressed mothers. Although adult-directed programming was minimal, Bank still believes this raises concerns as infants may experience negative repercussions as a result of absorbing adult content programming. The study did indicate that depressed mothers kept child-directed programming on for their children more often than nondepressed mothers. Even though these programs offer benefits to the children, unless there is parent discussion and dialogue during and after the programming, these children may not receive the positive effects of what they are watching. Depressed mothers are unlikely to interact with their children with respect to the programs because of their emotional state. Bank added, “Our results suggest that depressed mothers may use television as a coping mechanism, both in terms of their own emotions and as a parenting tool.” Therefore, Bank believes that interventions that are aimed at improving parent-child development strategies for depressed women should focus on media outlets already being accessed by these mothers.
Bank, A., Barr, R., Calvert, S., Parrott, W., McDonough, S., Rosenblum, K. (2012). Maternal depression and family media use: A questionnaire and diary analysis. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21.2, 208-216.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.