Challenging the Link Between Early Childhood Television Exposure and Later Attention Problems: A Multiverse Approach

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In 2004, Christakis and colleagues published findings that he and others used to argue for a link between early childhood television exposure and later attention problems, a claim that continues to be frequently promoted by the popular media. Using the same National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 data set (N = 2,108), we conducted two multiverse analyses to examine whether the finding reported by Christakis and colleagues was robust to different analytic choices. We evaluated 848 models, including logistic regression models, linear regression models, and two forms of propensity-score analysis. If the claim were true, we would expect most of the justifiable analyses to produce significant results in the predicted direction. However, only 166 models (19.6%) yielded a statistically significant relationship, and most of these employed questionable analytic choices. We concluded that these data do not provide compelling evidence of a harmful effect of TV exposure on attention.