The Effect of Viewing Television Violence on Childhood Aggression

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The Effect of Viewing Television Violence on Childhood Aggression

Abstract

There is a great deal of speculation on the effect television plays in childhood aggression. Two contrasting views regarding this issue are violent television increases aggressive behavior and violent television does not increase aggressive behavior. Later research demonstrates there may be other intervening variables causing aggression. These include IQ, social class, parental punishment, parental aggression, hereditary, environmental, and modeling. With all of these factors to take into consideration it is difficult to determine a causal relationship between violent television and aggression. It is my hypothesis this relationship is bi-directional. I feel violent television causes aggressive behavior and aggressive people tend to watch more violent television.

Over the years there has been a large amount of research published, many with conflicting results, to the question of a causal link existing between the viewing of televised violence and childhood aggression. It is an important question because if violent television is linked to childhood aggression we need to adapt our television shows accordingly.

Early 1960's Research

There is earlier research, but the first association between violent television and aggression was in the early 1960's when Albert Bandura began researching his modeling theory. His series of experiments first set the precedent for a relationship between violent television viewing and aggression. He felt children would model or imitate adult behavior. In one study he subjected children to both aggressive and non- aggressive adult models and then tested them for imitative behavior in the presence of the model. His theory was demonstrated when children readily imitated behavior exhibited by an adult model in the presence of the model (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1961). In a similar experiment children were exposed to aggressive and non-aggressive adult models, but then tested for amount of imitative learning in the absence of the model. Subjects in the aggression condition reproduced a good deal of physical and verbal aggressive behavior resembling that of the models. The data clearly confirmed the prediction that exposure of subjects to aggressive models increases the probability of aggressive behavior (Bandura et al. 1961). Another study sought to determine the extent to which film- mediated aggressive models may serve as an important source of imitative behavior. Children were divided and then exposed to four different aggression models. A real-life aggression condition, a human film- aggression condition, a cartoon film-aggression condition, and a control group. The results showed that exposure to humans on film portraying aggression was the most influential in eliciting aggressive behavior. Subjects in this condition, in comparison to

Aggression the control subjects,
exhibited more aggression and more imitative aggression. Subjects who viewed the aggressive human and cartoon models on film exhibited almost twice as much aggression as subjects in the control group. These results provide strong evidence that exposure to filmed aggression heightens aggressive reactions in children (Bandura et al. 1963a). These results add to the conclusion that viewing violent television produces aggressive behavior.

But, in Banduras next experiment he begins to question if other factors are involved in the relationship between televised violence and aggression. His subjects are divided into three groups, model-reward, model-punished, and control. All view an aggressive filmed model with a task appropriate ending. The results show mere exposure to modeling stimuli does not provide sufficient conditions for imitative learning. The fact that most of the children in the experiment failed to reproduce the entire repertoire of behavior exhibited by the model, even under positive-incentive...
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