The average American child spends one thousand, two hundred hours viewing television per year. Within this vast amount of time, each child will watch one hundred and fifty thousand acts of violence by the time they’re eighteen years old. (BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co. (2/7/2012). These statistics are very significant in terms of justifying the aggression displayed by many of the youth in this day and age. However, is it the television to blame? How can we tell if simply viewing these acts of violence through a television is enough to alter a child’s behaviour in real life? This question has summoned many great psychologists to try and find the answer; one of the greatest being Bandura, with his famous research using bobo dolls.
Albert Bandura’s 1963 study, “Imitation of Film-Mediated Aggressive Models,” is recognized throughout the world of psychology and yielded fascinating results. Bandura used a sample of 36 boys and 36 girls, all within the age of 3 and 7. These children were split into different groups to view different films. One group was shown a model acting in a passive manner in the presence of a bobo doll, whereas the other group witnessed a film of the polar opposite. The model was displaying aggressive behaviour towards the bobo doll, not only punching and kicking it, but showing verbal aggression as well. To no surprise, the aggressive model resulted in the children replicating the violent behaviour, whereas the passive model did not influence violent behaviour at all. After seeing a young girl go as far as hitting the bobo doll repeatedly with a toy hammer, it was quite evident that the models violence had guided the behaviour of the children. These findings supported Bandura’s “social learning theory”. That is, children learning social behaviour through observation. (Bandura, A ; Ross, D ; Ross, S A, (1963), “Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models”, Vol.66, pp.3-11) Despite the results providing concise evidence of the change in behavior in the children, there are many variables that may have influenced these alterations. For example, initial aggressiveness and other personality variables of children in the “aggressive” group, which may have influenced their aggressive behavior rather than the film alone, or even the initial reason for watching the violent media in the first place. Therefore, creating the notion that the aggression levels in children is what causes them to watch the violent media, rather than the media causing the violent behavior in real life. Bandura may be the most well known psychologist in terms of media violence’s impact on children, but there are other findings out there; many of which, convey the same finings.
Three psychologists, Hassan Md Salleh Bin Hj, Osman Mohd Nizam, and Azarian Zoheir Sabaghpour produced a study titled, “Effects of Watching Violent Movies on the Attitudes Concerning Aggression among Middle Schoolboys (13-17 years old) at International Schools”, which consisted of using 216 schoolboys to assist them in their research. Through the use of a Demographic Questionnaire, the Media Viewing Habit Questionnaire, the Affection toward movie violence scale, and the Attitudes concerning Aggression Scale, the opinions of the whole sample was recorded. The results showed significant differences between those who watched violent media often. Purely those who scored highly in the “affection towards movie violence scale” held the belief that aggressive and antisocial behavior is acceptable and warranted in society (European Journal of Scientific Research; Dec2009, Vol. 38 Issue 1, p141-156, 16p). Moreover, a majority of these aggressive-friendly children had many similar attitudes that are not acceptable in modern day society. Once again, it is unable to be determined whether these attitudes form as a result of media violence or through other factors that make the children more inclined to watch this sort of television, as shown by a study consisting of 48 children who’s behavior was not drastically changed by the media violence, but their previous exposure to real life violence and inherited attitudes, backed up by a well constructed scientific method.(Christopher J. Ferguson, “At most, media violence is a symptom, not a cause.”.)
Bandura and many others may have founded the result of immediate effects of media violence on children, however this did not educate us on how these children would be affected in the future. Psychologists Huesmann, L. R, Moise-Titus, J, Podolski, C, and Eron, L. D. constructed a research based on the information we were still yet to know. This study, titled “Longitudinal relations between children’s exposure to TV violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood” involved a sample of 557 children from 5 countries, aged 6-10. The information gathered consisted of childhood TV-violence viewing, identification with aggressive TV characters, judgments of realism of TV violence, aggressive behavior, intellectual ability, as well as parents’ socioeconomic status (measured by educational level), aggressiveness, parenting practices and attitudes, and parent’s TV usage (Developmental Psychology, 39, 201-221). 15 years later, a follow up study was completed on 329 participants from the same sample. Researchers measured adult TV-violence viewing and adult aggressive behavior, including any criminal convictions and violent behavior from state records. The results from this almost 20 year study show that early childhood exposure to violent media predict aggressive adulthood behavior in both females and males. Furthermore, while a positive relationship was found between early aggression and subsequent TV violence viewing, the effect was not significant. Not only has this study shown early childhood media violence to be detrimental in the children’s future, but eliminated the main extraneous variable that other studies had failed to do so.
Media violence’s impact on children’s aggression levels has always been a matter of opinion due to the large array of variables effecting the children, making it very hard to generalize one sample of children to the rest of the world. However, through psychologists such as Albert Bandura, it has become apparent that there is most definitely an effect of violent media on children. This finding is backed up by many supporting studies; some of which, concluding that not only immediate effects exist, but long-term ones as well. Although there are many studies showing very similar results, the verdict of media violence on children’s aggression will never be absolute due to many extraneous variables, which cannot be accurately accounted for, such as individual upbringings and minor predispositions to aggression.
* Albert Bandura, (1963), “Imitation of Film-Mediated Aggressive Models” - Vol.66, pp.3-11) * Hassan Md Salleh Bin Hj, Osman Mohd Nizam, and Azarian Zoheir Sabaghpour, “Effects of Watching Violence Movies on the Attitudes Concerning Aggression among Middle Schoolboys (13-17 years old) at International Schools” (European Journal of Scientific Research; Dec2009, Vol. 38 Issue 1, p141-156, 16p). * .(Christopher J. Ferguson, “At most, media violence is a symptom, not a cause.”.) * Huesmann, L. R, Moise-Titus, J, Podolski, C, and Eron, L. D, “Longitudinal relations between children’s exposure to TV violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood”, (Developmental Psychology, 39, 201-221)