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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Screen time, sleep and social relationships : a population-level study examining emotional wellbeing during early adolescence Cooray, Muthuthantrige Savithri


BACKGROUND: This study explored the role of early adolescents’ relationships with peers and adults, recreational screen time, and quality of sleep in relation to optimism, satisfaction with life, depressive symptoms and anxiety. Understanding the ways in which social experiences and health behaviors are associated with the emotional wellbeing of early adolescents is important because it can help pave the way for interventions and programs that support thriving. METHOD: The present study draws from data collected with the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI), a population-level self-report survey implemented annually in British Colombia. Survey data from grade 7 students (N = 28,172; 49.1% female), collected between 2014-2018, were examined. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to investigate whether social relationships (with peers, adults in school and adults at home) and health behaviors (screen time, sleep) were associated with indicators of positive and negative emotional wellbeing, controlling for gender and English language background. RESULTS: Main findings were that lower levels of peer belonging and adult support at home and at school, higher levels of screen time, and poorer sleep quality were associated with high levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety, and lower levels of optimism and satisfaction with life. There was a significant interaction between screen time and gender in relation to the emotional wellbeing outcomes. Specifically, the association between more screen time and poorer emotional wellbeing outcomes was significantly larger for girls than for boys. CONCLUSION: The present study indicates that high levels of peer belonging, adult support, sleep quality and low levels of screen time are important for the emotional wellbeing of emerging adolescents. These findings highlight the various behavioral and social factors that can be actively nurtured to promote emotional wellbeing during the early adolescent years .

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