I wonder what TV George Bush watched as a kiddy. They
surely must have cause of his conversion from being a mere nutter to being
an arch war criminal.
Children who watch violent television shows, identify with the characters
and believe they are realistic are more likely to be aggressive as adults,
U.S. researchers recently reported.
But the researchers found the most violent shows did not have the
strongest effects, the shows children liked the best did. These included
shows that by today's standards would not be considered especially violent.
But if parents watch television with their children and discuss the
differences with reality, they may be able to temper the effects of TV
violence, the team of psychologists said.
They interviewed Chicago-area children aged 6 to 10, their teachers and
parents, and analyzed their television viewing habits. They waited for 329
of them to grow up and marry, then interviewed them again, talked to their
spouses and checked criminal records.
Fifteen years later, the men and women who had most watched, enjoyed and
identified with violent television programs tended to be more aggressive,
the team reported in this week's issue of the journal Developmental
Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.
Psychologists Rowell Huesmann and colleagues at the University of Michigan
caught up with children first interviewed in 1977 about which violent TV
shows they watched.
The findings were the same even when a child's economic status, race,
parents' personalities and occupations and other factors were taken into
account. Some of the "violent" programs included Starsky and Hutch,
The Six Million Dollar Man and Roadrunner cartoons.
Men who really liked such television shows as children were much more
likely to have pushed, grabbed or shoved their spouses, shoved someone who
insulted them, been ticketed for speeding or convicted of another crime.
Women who enjoyed violent shows, including Charlie's Angels, were
four times more likely to have thrown something at their husbands, shoved or
punched someone else, or been caught speeding or committing another crime.
The researchers did not believe that children predisposed to aggression
or violence tended to watch such shows. It is more plausible that
exposure to TV violence increases aggression than that aggression increases
TV-violence viewing, Huesmann said in a statement.
Also, the study
suggests that being aggressive in early childhood has no effect on
increasing males' exposure to media violence as adults and only a small
effect for females.
The researchers were especially struck by their finding that it is a
child's identification with characters rather than the degree of violence
that predicts later aggression. Violent scenes that children are most
likely to model their behavior after are ones in which they identify with
the perpetrator of the violence, the perpetrator is rewarded for the
violence and in which children perceive the scene as telling about life like
it really is. Thus, a violent act by someone like Dirty Harry that results
in a criminal being eliminated and brings glory to Harry is of more concern
than a bloodier murder by a despicable criminal who is brought to justice.