Times Colonist

Violence linked to TV, teen mothers


VANCOUVER — Why are American teenagers three times more violent than Canadian teens?

Contrary to convention­al wisdom, it’s not necessaril­y because there are more crime-ridden big cities in the U.S. Instead, the answer has more to do with the fact there are far more children born to teenage mothers in the U.S. than in Canada — and that many more U.S. teenagers are addicted to TV.

Those are some of the findings that Dalhousie University economics specialist Lihui Zhang will outline when she makes a presentati­on Saturday at the giant Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of British Columbia.

Zhang, a 29-year-old PhD candidate who emigrated from China in 2002, set out to explain why 21 per cent of American teenagers told researcher­s “they had physically fought with someone in the last 12 months,” compared to just seven per cent of Canadian teenagers.

Comparing data on more than 8,000 U.S. and Canadian teenagers, Zhang concluded that one key factor explaining U.S. violence rates was the much higher rate of teenage mothers in the U.S.

Children born to teenage mothers are more likely to be violent — and three per cent of U.S. youngsters had teenage mothers, compared to 0.04 per cent of young people in Canada.

Zhang said teenagers who watch more than five hours a day of television tend to be more physically violent. Twenty-six per cent of American teenagers watch more than five hours a day of television, compared with 13 per cent of Canadian teens.

Zhang emphasized that she is just at the beginning of her research.

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