Population Study Article | Published:

Technoference: longitudinal associations between parent technology use, parenting stress, and child behavior problems

Pediatric Research (2018) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

Background and objectives

Heavy parent digital technology use has been associated with suboptimal parent–child interactions and internalizing/externalizing child behavior, but directionality of associations is unclear. This study aims to investigate longitudinal bidirectional associations between parent technology use and child behavior, and understand whether this is mediated by parenting stress.

Methods

Participants included 183 couples with a young child (age 0–5 years, mean = 3.0 years) who completed surveys at baseline, 1, 3 and 6 months. Cross-lagged structural equation models of parent technology interference during parent–child activities, parenting stress, and child externalizing and internalizing behavior were tested.

Results

Controlling for potential confounders, we found that across all time points (1) greater child externalizing behavior predicted greater technology interference, via greater parenting stress; and (2) technology interference often predicted greater externalizing behavior. Although associations between child internalizing behavior and technology interference were relatively weaker, bidirectional associations were more consistent for child withdrawal behaviors.

Conclusions

Our results suggest bidirectional dynamics in which (a) parents, stressed by their child’s difficult behavior, may then withdraw from parent–child interactions with technology and (b) this higher technology use during parent–child interactions may influence externalizing and withdrawal behaviors over time.

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Funding

College of Health and Human Development, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at The Pennsylvania State University; NIDA (T32DA017629); NICHD (F31 HD084118).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

    • Brandon T. McDaniel
  2. University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

    • Jenny S. Radesky

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brandon T. McDaniel.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-018-0052-6

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