AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS
Report prepared for The Council of Europe
Directorate of Human Rights
THE COMMUNICATIONS RESEARCH GROUP
Tel/Fax: 0121 359 0844
Strasbourg: The Council of Europe 1995
Introduction and Overview 3
History of Media Violence 4
Theories of Effect 5
Criminal Statistics 8
Natural Experiments 10
Correlational Studies 11
Longitudinal Studies 13
Experiments on Children 17
Experiments on Adolescents 20
Experimental Field Studies 22
Content and Control 27
Introduction and Overview
Mass media violence is probably the most researched issue in mass communications.
Few recent reviews even agree on the size of the research literature. However, in
1982 the National Institute of Mental Health listed well over a thousand research
publications in this field. Andison's (1977) conclusion was that three quarters (77%)
of such studies claim that media violence is causally linked to real life aggression and
this probably still holds true in most recent reviews (eg Comstock, 1991; Harris, 1993;
Huesmann and Eron, 1986; Huesmann et al, 1992; Huston et al, 1992; Gunter, 1994;
Geen, 1994; Lazar, 1994; Liebert and Sprafkin, 1988; Wartella, 1995).
One simple summary of this research literature is offered by the meta-analyses of the
statistical data provided in the various studies (for example Comstock, 1986; Hearold,
1986; Paik and Comstock, 1994; Wood, Wong and Cachere, 1991). These suggest
that the overall strength of association between media violence and human
aggressivity is in the order of between 4% and 10%. In other words some 4-10% of
the variability in human aggression can be predicted from exposure to mass media
violence. Thus the majority of authors conclude that media violence has a causal link
with human aggression.
However, sceptics have regularly challenged this interpretation, pointing to
methodological problems and conceptual difficulties in drawing conclusions about the
link between media violence and real-life aggression. Most critics suggest that at best
the apparent association has nothing to do with a causal relationship between the
media and real-world aggression (see Brody, 1977; Cashmore, 1994; Cumberbatch
and Howitt, 1975; Duhs and Gunton, 1988; Freedman, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1992;
Gadow and Sprafkin, 1989; Gauntlett, 1995; McGuire 1986; Stipp and Milavsky, 1988;
Fortunately, despite the daunting amount of published literature, the number of key
studies is quite limited and the strengths and weaknesses of the various research can
be well illustrated by reference to these.
It is worth noting at the outset that research on mass media violence is predominantly
North American, and is heavily influenced by psychological theory and methods.
There is a notable absence of contributions from either criminology (eg Sampson and
Laub, 1993) or from academics from within media studies (eg Buckingham, 1993).
However, perhaps the most serious omission in all of the research literature is the
absence of applied policy orientated work. Issues such as broadcaster/researcher
dialogue that may develop strategies for dealing with media violence are almost
History of Media Violence
Concerns about media violence are far from new. Indeed beliefs that popular culture
may be to blame for society's ills can be traced back to St Augustine and Plato.
However as Pearson (1983,1984) has observed such concerns have been well
documented since the 16th century when "popular songs too often presented criminals
as heroes" (Burke, 1978). In 1776, Joseph Hanway suggested that debasing
amusements in newspapers were among the causes of " . . . the host of thieves which
some late years invaded us . . . ". By the early 19th century, amusement houses were
condemned for " . . . that early depravity and extent of juvenile delinquency that every
magistrate acknowledges to exist . . ." (see Pearson, 1984). In the 1840s "penny gaff"
theatres were accused of encouraging immorality and imitative crime. The Sixth
Report of Inspectors of Prisons, dated 1841, pronounced " . . . if they do not directly
corrupt the mind they tend to its vitiation by familiarising it with scenes of grossness,
crime and blood, with a revolting coarseness . . . " (Worsley, 1849). By the mid 19th
century comic books, appearing as "penny dreadfuls", became a popular target for
those anxious to explain an apparent rise in crime. Greenwood (1869) reflected,
" . . . a stray leaf of Panther Bill or Tyburn Tree may sow the seeds of immorality
among as many boys as a town may produce . . . ". In 1905 Charles Russell did not
need to ask whether amusement halls and theatres caused crime in Manchester,
England. He said " . . . horrible murders and terrible tragedies when acted before the
footlights . . . " lead to " . . . so many instances of violence on the part of young men
in the back streets of the city . . . ".
Anxieties about the new medium of the moving picture appeared almost from the
beginning of the cinema. For example by 1912 the UK had set up the British Board
of Film Censors in response to the criticisms of cinema films and the perceived need
to protect people from their excesses. The appearance of horror comics in the
immediate post-war period quickly led to spirited campaigns against them by those
concerned that they might corrupt the young. In 1954, Frederick Wertham published
a book entitled The Seduction of the Innocent, arguing this case based on his
experience as a psychiatrist. However, even as early as 1953 Klapper had attempted
to summarise the various concerns about television as a social issue. He found that
anxieties about crime and violence predominated as much as concerns about the
amount of time children were spending with this new medium. More generally there
was the worry that children were being exposed to an adult world from which they
really should be protected. Finally, Klapper noted a recurrent theme against popular
culture and a desire for "better" children's television, by which people usually meant
they wanted more educational programmes and "classics" (see Wartella, 1988).
Over the decades of concern about the various media, social science research began
to make its own distinctive contribution to debate. Perhaps the most important
development in this was the Payne Fund, set up in New York in 1928, which financed
a rather well staffed series of twelve independent studies looking at the role of the
cinema in the lives of young people. A series of volumes was produced, together with
a summary volume written by Charters in 1933. The overall conclusions were
somewhat muted, agreeing that there may be some effects produced by cumulative
viewing, but regarding these as superficial changes such as in fashion rather than
changes of any social or moral significance. The researchers as a group were very
unwilling to attribute criminal delinquency to cinema going.
Essentially similar conclusions were reached in Britain in 1951 by the Departmental
Committee on Children and the Cinema (the Wheare Committee) which sponsored a
large survey of all juvenile offenders who appeared before the courts during a six
month period. This produced an impressive sample of 38,000 young offenders under
the age of sixteen. The committee concluded that in only 141 (0.4%) of these cases
criminal behaviour might be related to cinema attendance (Home Office, 1951). A
parallel survey by the committee of 1,344 heads of children's clinics, officials from
children's courts, teachers and other relevant specialists concurred that, by and large,
it was difficult to lay any blame on the cinema for an increase in criminal or immoral
behaviour. However these experts felt that there may indeed be superficial effects of
the cinema, such as suggesting ways in which young people might commit anti-social
activities, even if films did not encourage them to do so.
By 1960 the research literature on the effects of the mass media was beginning to
grow quite considerably. For example in 1961 UNESCO compiled a bibliography of the
effects of the cinema, containing around 300 references, two thirds of which had been
published in European countries. However, from the early 1960s onwards, the
predominant research tradition became firmly established in the United States of
Theories of Effect
Two psychologists are particularly associated with seminal work in this period:
Albert Bandura at Stanford University and Leonard Berkowitz at the University of
Wisconsin. Both researchers focused on film mediated aggression, but were initially
more concerned with developing theoretical issues than in dealing with applied
aspects of the mass media. However, their laboratory based experimental approaches
stimulated many other researchers to explore this promising new field. Perhaps more
importantly, the theoretical orientations of these two academics have helped shape the
way in which later researchers have conceptualised the effects of the mass media.
Bandura (1961) became interested in imitation and especially the way in which
aggressive models may be copied by younger people. In his experiments, beginning
in 1963, he measured aggression using a large knock-down plastic clown, called a
"bobo" or "bozo" doll, which when struck violently would bounce back up again due to
a weighted base. The design of the experiments was such that children would watch
a film of a model addressing the bozo doll belligerently, " . . . the model pummels it on
the head with a mallet, hurls it down, sits on it and punches it on the nose repeatedly,
kicks it across the room, flings it in the air and bombards it with balls . . . " (Bandura,
1973, page 72). After being exposed to the model's curious antics, the children were
then frustrated by being shown some attractive toys that they were invited to look at
but not play with. The children were then led to a room containing many of the toys
that the model had used and ostensibly left alone to play. Hidden researchers
observed the children in their free play and monitored their aggressive behaviour.
Bandura found, as other researchers have since, that most children (up to 88%)
readily imitate the aggressive models (Bandura, 1994). Perhaps more impressively,
even eight months later, young people may still retain 40% of the behaviours observed
and are able to reproduce them when invited to do so (Hicks, 1968).
The research of Leonard Berkowitz was somewhat different, in that he used university
students as the participants in his research. Berkowitz was centrally concerned with
developing learning theory as a perspective on aggression and his use of film material
was almost accidental in being an extension of the techniques he had used to
investigate the effects of aversive stimulation (Berkowitz, 1962). Berkowitz suggested
that aggressive thoughts could also be triggered by aggressive films, which " . . . can
prime other semantically related thoughts, heightening the chances that viewers will
have other aggressive ideas in this period . . . " (Berkowitz, 1984, page 411). This
priming of aggression of course is the opposite of catharsis, which argues that
aggression is reduced by a vicarious viewing of aggression. Indeed, the early
research by Berkowitz was designed to test what he thought to be methodological
weaknesses in previous demonstrations of a catharsis effect by Feshbach in the
1950s and 60s. Even today research evidence supporting the catharsis theory has
been very sporadic notably by Grimm (1994) in Germany.
One other early theory of media effects was that of desensitisation, or the blunting
of emotional responses. This seemed to be demonstrated by Lazarus in 1962, when
he showed subjects a film of sub incision. Essentially he found that if the audience
had seen the film before they were less upset by it but this did not generalise to new
material. Amongst early work relevant to this issue must be mentioned that of
Thomson (1959) who investigated the effects of crime dramas on Australian school
children. He reported that those who watched a lot of television and films seemed to
be much less emotionally responsive to thriller films than those who watched little. He
concluded that this phenomenon might be connected with their increased experience
reducing their sensitivity to such material. However this view has not been supported
in other surveys (Cantor, 1994).
In the intervening years there are perhaps only two theoretical developments worthy
of note. The first, by George Gerbner (1972, 1990), is a model that attempts to
describe the impact of television on society by a close analysis of television content.
He suggested that the main influence of television lies in its ability to convey ideas
about social behaviour, social norms and social structures. The more people watch
television, the more their social and cultural beliefs will be changed. At its simplest
level, for example, the high frequency of violence on television should provide a
message to people "the world is a violent place" and encourages a fear of crime.
Gerbner focuses on what he calls the "symbolic messages of television", which are
revealed by coding the content of television drama ("message system analysis"). The
process whereby public attitudes and beliefs may be shaped by television is referred
to by Gerbner as "inculturation" (see Gerbner, 1990).
In 1986 Huesmann proposed a theory of cognitive scripting. He suggested that
observing television violence allows viewers to learn complex behavioural scripts
about how to act violently. People may absorb these scripts more readily if they
identify with the aggressive television character and if they feel that the portrayal is
realistic. Whether they use the script or not will depend on the amount of similarity
between the situation at the time of retrieval and the situation at the time the script was
encoded in memory. This approach heavily draws on theoretical developments within
the psychology of memory and language (for example Abelson, 1976).
The theories of Gerbner and Huesmann are far more sophisticated than the early
notions of media effects which surround most empirical research in this field. The
simplest, and perhaps most obvious, test of the theory that television causes real
world aggression is to examine criminal statistics before and after the introduction of
television. Do crime rates rise more rapidly when television penetrates a culture?
Here the evidence against television would at first sight seem damning. Centerwall
(1989) claims that in virtually every country following the introduction of television,
violent crime has shown substantial and sustained increases (Centerwall 1989). Of
course any society embracing television will simultaneously be undergoing other quite
profound technological and social changes, especially since most Western countries
introduced television soon after the Second World War. Indeed, as Winston (1986)
has argued in his book Misunderstanding Media, the Second World War and its
occupational capacity for producing cathode ray tubes was probably central to the
rapid development of television in the post-war period. Moreover Centerwall provides
data on only three countries to support his case. More information is desirable before
we can conclude that television may encourage violent crime.
Fortunately there have been a number of studies that help illuminate the problem. All
three were carried out in the USA and thus may be of limited relevance to other
countries. Nonetheless, they remain interesting. The first study, by Hennigan et al
(1982), used archival data to look at the association between crime statistics and the
introduction of television. It was convenient that in the United States the Federal
Communications Commission operated a freeze on television station licensing in the
late 1940s. This allowed the researchers to carry out an interrupted time series
analysis, switching replications in which the roles of the treatment group receiving
television and the control group that did not, reversed over time.
Hennigan et al amassed statistics for crimes in four categories: crimes involving
violence; larceny (theft); auto theft and burglary. The results of this detailed analysis
are quite interesting. First of all there were no significant shifts at all for violent crime
or burglary, but larceny (theft), showed quite a significant increase while auto theft
produced only minor changes. Although modest in the time period covered, this study
therefore does not support the main point raised by Centerwall, that violent crime has
increased following the introduction of television.
The second study, by Clark and Blankenberg (1971), looked at the relationship
between crime statistics and the violent content of television. They used the TV
programme magazine, TV Guide, to assess the violent content of television for each
of the years between 1953 and 1969. As with many such magazines, TV Guide offers
plot synopses and details of the programmes thus providing a rudimentary means to
judge the violent content of television. Programmes could be classified in terms of
whether they were likely to be violent or not. Other research by the authors
demonstrates that this leads to an underestimation of the violence in programmes, but
nevertheless it is usually reasonably well correlated with the total amount of violence
on television in any year.
Clark and Blankenberg found that there was a considerable fluctuation in the amount
of violence shown over the years. Most interestingly, they reveal that the violent
content of television tends to be cyclical; it goes up and down and reaches peaks
roughly every four years. For researchers the value of such variation is that it can
then be correlated with the annual crime statistics, in order to check whether crime
statistics show similar cycles. No relationship at all was found between the violent
content of a year's television programming and the crime figures of that year.
Moreover, in carrying out lagged analysis between one year's television violent
content and the crime statistics of the following year, there was similarly no
The final study, by Messner (1986), utilised the geographic variations in data across
the United States. Because the rate of crime in some states is considerably higher
than in others, hypotheses can be tested about factors which might "explain" these
variations (cf Baron and Strauss, 1989). Similarly exposure to television may vary in
a similar fashion. Messner used the data from the 281 Standard Metropolitan
Statistical Areas (SMSAs) to examine the television viewing frequency as given by
Nielsen data in order to estimate the relative exposure to violent programmes across
those areas. In addition he looked at the rates of four types of crime: homicide
(murder); rape; robbery and aggravated assault across these metropolitan areas.
Messner's conclusions were surprising: fewer crimes occurred in areas where
television viewing was greater than average, and more occurred where it was lower
than average. Messner thus concluded that there is no relationship between television
violence viewing and delinquent behaviour. He attempted to explain this by suggesting
that young people are likely to be socialised to act criminally by association with their
peer group, rather than spending time at home watching television. This is an
intriguing suggestion that will be returned to since it is supported by more recent
research on juvenile offenders.
Although conceptually quite different from the above studies, it is worth noting here
the quite considerable literature generated by Phillips on the contagion of media
violence. This research uses archive data to test the hypothesis that mass mediated
events, such as prize fights, lead to an increase in homicide. For example, he looked
at the fluctuations in daily homicides in the United States before and after every
heavy-weight championship fight between 1973 and 1978. After quite complicated
analysis of the data, he reports a small but significant "effect" of prize fights on the
homicide rate. Each prize fight led to approximately 12 more homicides than
expected. Phillips claims that a vast range of media events produces similar imitation,
including publicised suicides, public executions, murder stories and prize fights. In
each of these areas Phillips has produced an impressive number of supportive
publications (eg Lesyna and Phillips, 1989; Phillips, 1982, 1983, 1986; Phillips and
While this kind of research evidence lends support to the theoretical position of
Bandura on imitation, there have been a considerable number of contradictory results
(eg Baron and Reiss, 1985; Berman, 1988; Kessler et al, 1988; Kessler and Stipp,
1984; Messner, 1986; Phillips and Carstansen, 1986; Phillips and Paight, 1987; Platt,
1987; Schmidtke and Haffner, 1988; Stack, 1992).
Given the enormous interest this kind of research has attracted and the controversy
it has created, it would be misleading to offer a simple summary. Much of the
controversy surrounds the statistical methodology. For example Baron and Reiss
(1985) replicated Phillips study on prize fights, but invented the date of the prize fight
to see whether the non existent fights were followed by increases in the levels of
homicide. They found evidence that this was the case, which means that the non-existent prize fights had exactly the same "effect" as the real ones. There is no doubt
that in the face of such and similar criticisms Phillips has always provided a spirited
defence of his research position.
However, we should remember that the "mass mediated" events with which Phillips
deals are not necessarily only mediated by television, they may include newspapers
or observers at those events or even hearsay evidence about those events. Moreover
claims that anti-social events reported in the media produce "copy cat" effects ignore
the role of news values in this. A wave of media reports of dangerous dogs savaging
children may be due to the newsworthiness of such stories following the first report
than on imitative behaviour in the canine species. In this sense the research does not
tell us very much about the role of the mass media in society, still less about the role
of television in creating anti-social behaviour.
The introduction of television could have allowed some sophisticated research to
examine the impact of television on society. However it is a matter of some regret that
so few studies exist. Happily, the unique opportunity to carry out before and after
studies was not missed either in North America or in Britain. Large scale and fairly
comprehensive evaluations were conducted by Himmelweit, Oppenheim and Vince
(1958) in Britain, and by Schramm, Lyle and Parker (1961) in Canada and the United
States. These are both important studies and make fascinating reading, although
unfortunately the measures of aggression taken were fairly perfunctory in both studies.
Those taken by Himmelweit involved only one item on a questionnaire given to
teachers, who were asked to complete check lists on the children. However, no effect
of television was found on children's aggression.
Schramm, Lyle and Parker's measures of aggression were more sophisticated the
findings a little different and the conclusions possible seem contradictory. In their first
study, young children between the ages of eleven and twelve, in what was called
Radio Town, were more aggressive than those in Teli Town, while no differences
existed between the groups of older children. In their second study, a weak trend was
found for heavy viewers of television to be more aggressive than light viewers.
Opportunities to evaluate the introduction of television have become increasingly rare
and precious few other studies exist. The most recent publication, (Joy, Kimball and
Zabrack, 1986) reports the results of a natural experiment taking place well over a
decade earlier in Canada. Here a small logging and farming community hidden in a
valley and shielded from the transmitters, was suddenly exposed to television for the
first time. The before and after measures taken suggest an increase in both physical
and verbal aggression compared with two control communities, one that had only one
television station (Unitel), and another that had more than one (Multitel).
While this in some ways seems the best evidence yet reviewed of an increase in
aggression occasioned by television, the authors interestingly interpret their results
not in terms of the content of television but more in terms of the general presence of
television, leading to an increase in material values etc. As Murdock (1988) has
observed, it seems such a shame that this study did not allow a more substantial
analysis of the community, which had a population of just 658 people. Notel was small
enough to have made the construction of a multilayered account of the community in
the process of change a real possibility.
The last study examining the introduction of television was carried out by Granzberg
and Steinbing (1980) in a Cree Indian community, which they compared with a control
Indian community and a control Euro-Canadian community. No pre or post differences
were found in the levels of aggression between the experimental and control
communities. Thus in this case television was not associated with an increase in
aggressive behaviour. Nonetheless, Granzberg and Steinbing found that when they
looked at the correlation between daily exposure to television and aggressive attitudes
a significant relationship emerged. Unfortunately this finding is only one of correlation
rather than change and is a subject that will be examined under the next section.
One of the earliest surveys to focus on the possible relationship between television
and delinquency was carried out in Germany by Maletzke (1959). He interviewed two
matched groups of 200 youths, between the ages of fifteen and twenty. They were
divided according to whether or not they were regular television viewers. He found no
evidence of any different delinquent propensity between these two groups, or indeed
anything that suggested that television had any clear effect at all on the young people.
Around the same time in the United States Pfuhl (1960, 1970) undertook a more
elaborate piece of research, examining a whole variety of media consumption by
young people between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. He assured the participants
of anonymity, since some of the measures referred to delinquent behaviour, such as
purposely damaging or destroying public or private property. There was no variation
in delinquency according to a wide variety of measures of television viewing, including
time spent watching television, favourite types of television programmes and exposure
to television crime dramas. Thus Pfuhl was quite adamant that television was not
implicated in delinquent behaviour.
In 1963 Eron reported the results of a study of 875 young people, aged between eight
and nine. He had measured their aggressiveness using peer ratings (that is the young
people nominated those who were more aggressive at school) and measured their
television exposure by reports from the children's mothers. First of all he found there
was a negative correlation between the amount of time children spent watching
television and peer rated aggressiveness: the more they watched the less aggressive
On the other hand, Eron did report that those boys who preferred aggressive TV
programmes, as reported by their mothers, were more aggressive at school, as
reported by their peers. On the whole these early studies gave only limited support for
concerns about television.
However the reassuring pattern of research findings was challenged in 1970s when
a spate of studies was published, ostensibly demonstrating associations between
television violence viewing and aggressiveness. For example, McLeod, Atkin and
Chaffee (1972) in a survey of 600 adolescents in Maryland and in Wisconsin, found
that exposure to violent television was positively correlated with self-reported
aggression. Among the various sets of data produced the strongest association
between television and aggression was in young girls. However, McLeod, Atkin and
Chaffee report a number of other findings, for example, that total television viewing,
violence viewing and self-reported aggression all declined from junior to senior high
school and that boys watched considerably more violent television than girls. It may
be that the relationship between television and aggression, as reported by the
researchers, is an artefact due to not making adequate allowance for the sex of the
child, and their age. For example, when the various groups, formed by sub-dividing
the sample by sex and by school placement, are examined only one correlation out of
the eight reported results reaches statistical significance. One other way of viewing
this data is to examine the total number of correlations reported between the various
measures of aggression and television viewing. Of the twenty described, nearly half
were significant, but unfortunately only one of these is significant in both the Maryland
and the Wisconsin samples. This would seem to suggest that the reliability of the data
does not reach the standards that we would need for policy recommendations.
In the same year McIntyre and Teevan (1972) reported an even larger study of 2270
adolescents, again in the Maryland area. Their research measured a variety of
television viewing habits and various delinquent activities and concluded that
preference for violent television programmes was related to serious aggressive
delinquent acts, but not to petty delinquency. Not surprisingly, McIntyre and Teevan
found that boys were more delinquent than girls, while black and lower socio-economic
groups contributed most to the overall deviancy. As with the previous study, when
age, sex and race are controlled, the reported correlations between television
exposure and delinquency become considerably weaker and statistically insignificant,
with only one exception. This would again indicate that the results do not achieve the
level of reliability desired.
Somewhat similar results were reported by Robinson and Bachmann in a survey of
1500 adolescents. They again found a small correlation between violent programme
preference and aggressive attitudes, but no significant results due to overall television
These findings were again echoed in the latest study by Thornton and Voight (1984)
who drew a probability sample of 3500 males and females. Their measures of
television exposure were fairly cursory, including the amount of television viewed and
the young people's four favourite programmes. However, the delinquency measures
were more extensive, covering 27 items. The associations reported were not with total
television viewing, but only with preferences for violent television programmes. The
associations were generally very weak, but stronger with serious delinquent
behaviour, such as criminal damage, than with more petty delinquency.
The absence of a relationship in these studies between total television viewing and
aggressive delinquent behaviour is puzzling since the more people watch television,
the more likely it is they will watch television violence. It could be, therefore, that the
programme preference data merely indicate that aggressive people are attracted to
and enjoy aggressive television programmes.
Although various studies lend support to this idea, perhaps the most elegant test of
this hypothesis is provided by Lynn, Hampson and Agahi (1989) in a large study
carried out in Northern Ireland. They surveyed over 2000 children and identified
siblings within that sample to focus the research on differences between brother and
sister pairs in terms of their relationship to television and their aggressivity. The
results were quite striking: there was no evidence at all that the amount of viewing
television violence had any effect on aggression. However, enjoyment of television
violence was correlated with aggression. Overall the best predictor of aggressivity in
this sample was psychoticism. Thus Lynn's data provides strong support for the
hypothesis that aggressive children tend to enjoy aggressive television. Lynn's
conclusions were circumspect: he suggests that enjoying television violence may
have an influence in increasing aggression in young people, but the evidence for this
is weak and remains speculative.
It seems clear that the correlational studies have not helped much to illuminate the
processes whereby television violence might be related to aggressive behaviour.
There is some doubt as to whether television viewing in itself is the cause of the
relationship between the enjoyment of television violence and aggressive behaviour.
Perhaps the best way to examine the dynamics of such a relationship is in a
longitudinal study, following children through over time. We turn now to these.
In 1972 Eron, Huesmann, Leftkowitz and Walter reported the results of a longitudinal
study that had followed up on Eron's original 1963 sample. Eron had measured
children's aggression and television violence exposure at the age of eight or nine and
surveyed them again ten years later. Essentially they claimed there was a delayed
action effect, where early preferences for television violence correlated with
aggression at the age of eighteen or nineteen. This is true possibly for one of the
measures of aggression for boys, but two of the other measures of aggression did not
show a relationship and none of the measures showed this effect for girls.
The research continued and in 1982 Huesmann reported the results of a later follow-up study that failed to find any effects for either sex. Indeed, at adulthood the
correlation between television and aggression was slightly negative, but he did not
attach any importance to this.
It is perhaps unfortunate that the measures used in the Eron study are not more
comprehensive. Information on early television violence viewing was obtained from
parents and, as Kay (1972) has pointed out, they are not likely to provide very valid
data. Parents might, for example, guess that aggressive children preferred aggressive
programmes; indeed, the possibility that aggressive personality explains early
television violence viewing and later aggression is an issue which is not taken
seriously in Huesmann's report.
Singer and Singer carried out two separate year long studies of pre-schoolers
investigating the relationship between television viewing and their aggressive
behaviour (Singer and Singer, 1980; Singer and Singer, 1981). The mothers of the
children kept daily logs on the children's behaviour for a two week period several times
during the year. Additionally trained observers recorded details of the children's
behavioural and effective responses. Their conclusion was that heavier viewing of
television significantly predicted later aggression. However in a detailed analysis of
the results they became convinced that total television may be less important than
what children watch. For example children who were highly aggressive, including
those who were very low television viewers, average four times as much time watching
adult orientated action adventure programmes as did low aggressive children. The
lower aggressive children tended to watch programmes like Mr Roger's
Neighbourhood significantly more often than the highly aggressive children. However
they also noted that later aggressive behaviour that was predicted by " . . . early heavy
viewing of public television's fast-paced Sesame St as well as more violent cartoons
such as Super Heroes and Woody Woodpecker . . . " (Singer and Singer, 1986, page
In Germany a longitudinal study of 2500 eleven to fifteen year old children was carried
out over a period of two years in three waves (Groebel, 1981; Krebs, 1981). The
measures of aggression were classified as reactive (instrumental aggression) or
destructive (spontaneous aggression). Television viewing was related to reactive
aggression but not to destructive aggression. However additional analyses reveal
some other interesting findings. Boys with low self-esteem and high social fear
frequently had higher TV viewing scores than other groups. The researchers interpret
this as an escapist function of television. Probably the largest longitudinal study is
that carried out by Milavsky (Milavsky, Stipp, Kessler and Rubens, 1982). This took
more than ten years to complete and involved surveying 3200 young people over a
three year period. Data was obtained at six points in time through questionnaires
administered to the children in their classrooms. Parents and teachers were also
interviewed so that any effects could be analysed in the context of both the children's
homes and the school environments. As Milavsky pointed out (Stipp and Milavsky,
1988) " . . . one of the reasons that the study took so long to complete was the results
were weak and inconsistent and therefore difficult to interpret . . ." (page 164). They
concluded any effect of watching television violence on children's aggression either
did not exist or if it did it was so tiny it was hardly measurable. Opinion quickly divided
in the academic community over whether Milavsky's findings did show some effect
after all or whether they were confirmation that no real link existed between television
violence and aggressive behaviour (Cook, Kendzierski and Thomas, 1983; Felson
and Morgan, 1984; Kenny, 1984; Rossi and Wright, 1983).
The most detailed research endeavour in this field is that by Belson (1978) who
studied 1565 boys aged thirteen to sixteen in London. Although not a longitudinal
study Belson asked children to recall programmes that they had seen in their youth
and used this data to attempt to predict their current aggression. Given the enormous
amount of data collected on the boys this must have involved some of the lengthiest
interviews carried out in social science. Belson tested twenty two hypotheses
concerning the possible relationship between television violence and children's
aggression. The aggression was measured using 45 different types of aggressive
behaviour. These included "I've had an argument with somebody", "I have been
violent in self-defence", "I've shot and airgun or catapult or arrow at someone or
something" and "I've cut someone with a knife or a razor or a glass". They were asked
if they had done it in the last six months and then how often they had done it in the last
The most important element in Belson's research was the way in which he attempted
to match heavy and light viewers to television violence using a sophisticated system
which controlled for over 200 different variables such as social class, education in
order to overcome the serious problem that any correlation between delinquency and
exposure to television violence could be due to a third variable. It would be churlish
to criticise Belson for not being thorough enough in this search for third variables
though his matching list is far from exhaustive. Belson's conclusions were confident
and dramatic. Boys with high levels of exposure to television violence committed forty-nine per cent more acts of serious violence than those who saw little television
violence. Belson went on to list policy recommendations and suggest that violence
should be reduced on television, especially in " . . . plays or films in which violence
occurs in the context of close personal relationships . . . ", " . . . programmes
presenting fictional violence of a realistic kind . . . " and so on (eg page 520). This
reads as an impressive list of specific recommendations which people may desire to
pinpoint the controls on television.
Unfortunately closer examination of the vast data that Belson produced urges more
caution. For example the graphs for the full sample (pages 380-382) show that the
results are far from as simple as his conclusions imply. In these graphs where
exposure to television violence is plotted against violent behaviour it is clear that the
relationship is curvilinear. Thus very low viewers of television violence are slightly
more aggressive than moderate viewers. More importantly very high viewers of
television violence are less aggressive than the moderate to high exposure group, fifty
per cent lower in fact. Moreover in Belson's data exposure to non-violent television
is also linked to aggressive behaviour as indeed are comics and comic books and
even newspaper readership.
Another serious problem with Belson's research relates to the measures taken of
television violence exposure. First of all the list of programmes presented to children
included some which had ceased to be broadcast when the children were only three
years old (Murdock and McCron, 1979). Under these circumstances the validity of the
responses may be called into doubt. Belson attempts to reassure critics on this point
by demonstrating that the responses were "reliable" (ie that on a second occasion
boys produced the same responses as on the first one). Although this is a
conventional measure of reliability in research methods it does not ensure validity.
For example children might repeatedly assert they are Martians which would on this
criteria have to be considered as a reliable response, but we might assume that the
response lacked some validity. There are of course various ways around this problem.
One solution adopted by Milavsky (Milavsky, Kessler, Stipp and Rubens, 1982) in a
very similar study to Belson's is to present children with some non-existent television
programme titles. If children claim to have seen these then they may be considered
to be providing invalid responses. What is interesting about Milavsky's research is
that he initially found a weak connection between television violence exposure and
aggression but when he removed those respondents who gave invalid responses the
correlation was dramatically reduced. In other words the link found by Belson and
others may well be due to the inadequacy of the measures of television violence
As a final point we should note that despite Belson's potential database of 1565
respondents the actual numbers contributing the claimed link between television and
serious acts of aggression must be considerably smaller. After all few children
committed very serious acts of aggression. It is not clear from Belson's data exactly
what the sizes of the various sub samples were but his cut-off point for matching was
only 30 cases.
The most cited of longitudinal studies are those associated with Huesmann and Eron
(1986) who orchestrated cross-national comparisons in the United States of America,
Australia, Finland, Poland, Israel and Holland. Although the designs vary slightly
between countries they are essentially similar in that peer and self-ratings were used
in aggression and self-ratings of television exposure. In the USA for example 34 lists
were presented to the children who were invited to select from each list one or two
programmes which they watched and then to say how often they watched them. In
their account of this research the authors repeatedly assert that television violence
viewing predicts later aggression in the children. However the pattern of findings is
The Dutch researchers considered their results did not show any effect of television
violence and refused to publish within Huesmann and Eron's book and report their
results elsewhere (Wiegman, Kuttschreuter and Barda, 1992).
In Australia there were no significant correlations between early television violence
viewing and later aggression.
In the USA after controlling for initial aggression the relationship between television
violence and viewing was significant only in girls.
In Israel significant correlations were found in the city sample but not in a sample
drawn from a kibbutz.
In Poland while there were correlations where " . . . a greater preference for violence
viewing was predictive of greater aggression . . . ". The author Fraczek adds
" . . . nevertheless the effects are not large and must be treated cautiously . . . ".
The Finnish researchers Lagerspetz and Viemero conclude " . . . our study in Finland
can be taken to corroborate the previously obtained results that the amount of
aggressive behaviour in children is related to their viewing of violence on TV . . . ".
However these results are not significant for girls and the correlation quoted for boys
depends on a new variable computed from the product of television violence viewing
and identification with television characters. It is apparent from the full report, which
they published independently (Viemero, 1986), that the correlation of violence viewing
with later aggression is actually negative (-.324). In other words the more children
watch violent television the less aggressive they were later. Moreover the measure
of identification clearly indicates that for boys it was identifying with female characters
that correlated with aggressive behaviour (+.715). Under these circumstances it is
difficult to concur with the author's conclusions.
In other respects the details reported of the analyses carried out are inadequate to
reach firm conclusions about the role of third variables. For example in the Polish
study Fraczek notes that academic achievement halved the correlation between
violence viewing and later aggression but academic achievement does not seem to
be have been controlled for in the final regression analysis.
Thus overall the longitudinal studies have repeatedly pointed to some weak
associations between television and aggression but gloss over some serious
contradictions in the data and do not aid in the understanding of what this relationship
is nor indeed can they be taken as the basis for policy recommendations. Links
between media violence and aggression appear as a "Will o' the Wisp" phenomena
never in the same place at the same time. As many authors have suggested (eg Prell,
1992) young people may be more impressionable than older age groups and so
longtitudinal studies would seem the ideal way to follow through possible media effects
but these remain to be convincingly and reliably demonstrated.
Experiments on Children
Following the pioneering laboratory experiments on young children by Bandura in the
early 1960s a plethora of studies followed often utilising the convenient university
creche facilities enjoyed by academic psychologists. The willingness of most young
children from the age of three to imitate models in a laboratory quickly led the research
to moving on from asking whether children can and do imitate to asking questions
about the circumstances which optimise such imitation. Taken as given that children
will imitate models and film models in a laboratory, the question became will the
children imitate more if the model is rewarded, rather than punished, will the children
imitate more if the model seems to be of a higher status and successful, will the
children imitate more if the model seems to be similar to the child? And so on. It is
unfair to summarise all of this research by a simple statement, but the evidence from
all of the research is that children imitated the models almost regardless of the
conditions (Bandura, 1986, 1994; McHan, 1985).
However, over the years, there has been a growing dissatisfaction with the ecological
validity of the laboratory experiment. While there is no doubt that children can learn
by observation, and this must be part and parcel of the way in which children are
socialised, children do not typically imitate all that they see. There is a discrepancy
between the very high incidence of imitation in the Bandura style experiment and what
children typically do after watching television (play normally, have their tea and so on).
Undoubtedly children may imitate some things they see but the novelty of the 'bobo'
doll was a crucial factor in Bandura's experiments. For example Kniveton and
Stephenson (1970) found that children who were not familiar with the doll imitated five
times more than children who had previous exposure to it. Indeed, Nobel (1975)
commented, " . . . in my own studies where children watch media violence in small
groups I have rarely found more than 5% imitation after viewing . . . " (Nobel, 1975,
page 134). Nobel suggests that even young children taking part in the laboratory
experiment understand that they are expected to play a particular role. For example
he quotes one shrewd four year old who on first arriving at the laboratory for a
modelling experiment was heard to observe to her mother, "Look Mummy, there's the
doll we have to hit!" (Nobel, 1975, page 134).
Despite Nobel's preference for carrying out research in more naturalistic settings it is
still the case that field experiments with young children have found associations
between exposure to aggressive material and children's anti-social behaviour: more
aggression has been reliably found following exposure to television violence (eg
Sanson and Di Muccio, 1993). However, Gadow and Sprafkin (1989, 1993) point out
a peculiar problem that seems to have escaped the notice of so many reviewers. In
the 20 field experiments available, which they carefully reviewed on the short term
effects of television on children's behaviour, the stimulus materials seem to show quite
complicated and controversial results. By and large the finding is that while
aggressive film content often produces elevated levels of anti-social behaviour, the
control (non-aggressive) material produces sometimes even greater amounts of
aggressive behaviour. In other words, the field experiments carried out with young
people do not implicate television violence per se in the anti-social aggressive
behaviour demonstrated in free-play. The authors point out that even television
programmes which are specifically produced with the aim of encouraging pro-social
behaviours in children, may encourage aggressive behaviour.
In this context it is worth remembering the experiment by Coates et al (1976) which
found that viewing Sesame St and Mr Roger's Neighbourhood resulted in an almost
threefold increase in aggression in their more aggressive pre-school children samples.
Singer and Singer in 1986 reached a somewhat similar conclusion, suggesting that
" . . . later aggressive behaviour was predicted by earlier viewing of public television's
fast paced Sesame St, as well as more violent cartoons, super-heroes and Woody
Woodpecker (Singer and Singer, 1986, page 113).
As Gadow and Sprafkin argue, the policy implications of such research evidence are
troublesome. Interestingly, while they conclude that the findings from field
experiments with young people offer little support for the media-aggression
hypothesis, they also suggest that aggression laden programming can be justifiably
rejected on other grounds, such as aesthetic, humanistic and philosophical. Of course
in reviewing field experiments Gadow and Sprafkin were concerned only with the
short-term effects of television and films. There is a more general issue as to whether
children may identify with aggressive television characters and by so doing change
their attitudes and values in such a way that makes aggression more likely in the long
term. Whether or not children immediately imitate aggressive characters in play may
be less important than whether they identify with such aggressive television characters
and, as Huesmann has argued, learn aggressive cognitive scripts that encourage
them at some later date to reproduce that aggressive behaviour.
Unfortunately, Bandura in his various theoretical offerings (eg Bandura, 1986) still
regards identification and imitation as more or less synonymous. In Bandura's
formulation imitation is less a process of media effect than an effect in itself as
measured by matching responses of the observer to the model. However,
identification where an observer desires to become like the model could be a process
of effect (Barker, 1989). To date little research attention has been paid to this issue
despite frequent references to identification in the writings of Huesmann (eg
Huesmann and Malamuth, 1986).
The most focused experimental research in this area examined the potential influence
that identification with an aggressive film character might have on children's attitudes
to and moral judgements about aggression (Howitt and Cumberbatch, 1972;
Cumberbatch and Howitt, 1974, and Howitt and Cumberbatch, 1975). Children were
shown a lengthy film clip to elicit identification responses. Films used included Chick's
Day, Billy Budd and The Virginian. Identification was measured by a series of
questions asking, for example, "How much do you like Chick? How much would you
like Chick as a brother? How much would you like Chick as a friend?" and so on. In
order to test whether identification with a film character would lead children to
becoming more tolerant of that character's aggressive behaviour, two versions of a
questionnaire were prepared. Each described an extended aggressive scene which
began pro-socially and ended up with excessive force being used, where a man
becomes knocked unconscious. One version attributed the aggressive behaviour to
"Chick" but the control group were presented with the violent scene attributed to a
" . . . John Davies who was not in the excerpt shown . . . ". The crucial question was
whether children who identified with the film character would become more tolerant of
that character's aggressive behaviour compared with when the same behaviour was
attributed to someone with whom they had not identified. In none of the experiments
was there a significant difference between the experimental group and the control
group. In other words, identifying with the television character did not lead to children
becoming more tolerant of that character's aggressive behaviour.
However, each of the experiments demonstrated that children who identified with
aggressive characters would tend to be more tolerant of aggressive acts, regardless
of whether they were attributed to the character with whom they had identified, or to
a control character whom they had not encountered before. In other words, it would
seem that children who are tolerant of aggression may more readily identify with
aggressive television characters. However crucially, identifying with aggressive
television characters does not cause them to become more tolerant of aggressive
behaviour. This finding is reminiscent of that offered by Lynn et al (1989) who
demonstrated that television violence appealed to those of aggressive disposition but
was unable to show evidence of the media aggravating anti-social dispositions.
This is not to suggest that research evidence is inconsistent with the thesis that media
violence causes aggression but rather that the evidence is open to other
The range of methodologies adopted to explore media effects has been somewhat
constrained but the research by Molitor and Hirsch (1994) is worth mentioning on
children's tolerance of 'real-life' aggression following exposure to media violence. This
study successfully replicated an earlier one by Drabman and Thomas which required
young children to monitor the behaviour of other children. Children participating in the
research were asked to do this using a closed circuit television system and to call for
help if the behaviour got out of hand. The effects of previously viewing aggressive
media fare was to delay children's calls for help. This is consistent with desensitation.
However experiments of this kind are very susceptible to how the participants interpret
the task demands (Nobel, 1975). Thus if children are shown aggressive films by an
experimenter they may well interpret this as reflecting a relatively tolerant attitude to
aggression (cf Borden, 1975).
All in all while short term effects are easy to demonstrate these appear to dissipate
quickly (Frydman, 1995) and offer little support for concerns that television violence
has a long-term influence on the aggressivity of individuals still less on the social
problem of violence in society.
Experiments on Adolescents
Berkowitz has been a leading researcher within the field of aggression for more than
three decades (Berkowitz, 1962-1993). From the outset his theoretical formulations
involved the use of quite complex designs, since he argued that media aggression
would increase or prime aggressive drives only if it were justified media aggression
and if the person watching it was already aggressive.
The general procedure adopted by Berkowitz involved six groups of participants,
(university students), who first of all received an intelligence test. Half of the groups
were angered by an experimenter who insulted the intellectual competence of the
subjects, while the other group were treated in a neutral fashion. Following this the
groups were again split. Half of the group saw a control film about canal boats in
England while the other half saw a seven minute film clip of a prize fight scene taken
from Champion which stars Kirk Douglas. One experimental group was informed that
the aggression against Kirk Douglas in the film was justified (in order to reduce the
participants' aggression anxiety) while the other group were told that it was not (in
order to increase their aggression anxiety). At the end of the experiment the
participants were invited to complete a questionnaire on what they thought of the
experimenter. They were told that this would be sent to the head of the department.
The results from this research indicated that those angered by the experimenter made
more adverse comments about him than those treated in a neutral way, not
surprisingly. In the angered group those who had been instructed that the aggression
in the film was justified made significantly more aggressive responses than either the
control film group, or the unjustified aggression film group. The films did not have any
differential effect on the non-angered groups. Thus Berkowitz concluded that
" . . . media aggression depicted as being justified has the greatest probability of
leading to aggression when the audience is already angry . . . " (Berkowitz, 1962,
Later experiments became more complex and indeed more contrived. Thus Berkowitz
and Geen (1967) hypothesised that when given the opportunity to aggress, subjects
would do so more strongly if the victims were linked with the aggressive film in some
way. This experiment involved the second experimenter being introduced as either
'Kirk' who was boxer or 'Bob' who was not. After seeing the Kirk Douglas film
sequence, where Kirk plays the role of a boxer, subjects by a happy coincidence were
allowed to give electric shocks to the experimenter in the learning task. Subjects who
received the name mediated treatment produced the most aggressive responses.
Similar findings were reported by Berkowitz and Geen (1966).
Although Berkowitz is clear about the special conditions under which media
aggression can provoke aggressive responses in people, the pattern of findings from
other studies does not easily lend support to this. For example Walters and Thomas
(1963) used the film Rebel Without a Cause and a control film about picture-making
by teenagers to investigate the effects of film aggression. Before the experiment the
two groups were fairly equal in their aggression but following the films the group who
had seen Rebel Without a Cause became significantly higher on aggression than the
control group. The problem with this study is that Walters did not frustrate the
students to produce anger-arousal and yet demonstrated an enhancement of
aggression through the aggressive film.
Zillman and Johnson (1973) suggested that some of the discrepancies between
studies may be explained by the arousal caused by aggressive films. The researchers
suggested that what should be added is a control condition of no-film to compare the
effects of seeing a violent film clip. They used The Wild Bunch compared with a
neutral film (Marco Polo's Travels) compared with a no-film condition. Zillman and
Johnson took physiological measures of the participants in the films showing that the
neutral film depressed arousal relative to the no-film condition. This explained the
results of the aggression measure which in this case was willingness of the
participants to deliver electric shocks and here there was no difference between the
violent film and the no-film condition, both of which produced more aggression than
the neutral film.
Further support for the idea that aggressive films produce arousal rather than
aggression per se is provided by Tannenbaum (1971; Tannenbaum and Zillman
1975). In these studies humorous films produced more aggression than control films
but aggressive films were equally as effective in increasing humorous responses to
humorous material. Similarly non-aggressive erotic films, which were arousing,
increased rewarding behaviour when the learning task required this rather than
punishment. Indeed Mueller, Donnerstein and Hallam (1983) reported a 50% increase
in pro-social behaviour following exposure to a violent programme. Zillman went on
to develop a sophisticated theory of media effects based on the idea of excitation
transfer (eg Zillman, 1978, 1979, 1982,1991; Bryant and Zillman, 1994).
While these developments are of some interest they pose a large question mark over
the whole idea that the violence content per se of the media creates social problems,
in that any arousing experience, an exciting football game for example, could under
the right conditions increase aggressive responding in the observer. Moreover during
the 1960s a number of researchers began to produce evidence that what subjects will
do in a laboratory setting is very different from what they would do in everyday life (see
for example Adair, 1973: Friedman, 1967; Orne, 1969; Orne and Holland, 1968;
The concern must be that university students participating in film experiments as part
of their course requirements may have some good idea of what the experimenter is
hoping to demonstrate and may simply role play in order to produce the results they
think the experimenter wants. As Freedman (1986) has observed merely showing an
aggressive film may imply that the experimenter expects or even desires aggressive
responses. Certainly Borden (1975) found aggressive responses were lower when
female observers were present and increased if observers appeared to have
aggressive values. However, whether or not the participants can guess what the
experimenter is researching does not seem to have produced a consistent pattern of
findings. Sometimes sophisticated participants appear to comply with what
experimenters are expecting and in other studies seem to lean over backwards not to
do so (for example Page and Scheidt, 1971; Shuck and Piso, 1974; Berkowitz, 1971).
Experimental Field Studies
While experiments taking place in more naturalistic settings are not necessarily free
from such potential artefacts they at least move the study of media effects away from
university student populations. The first attempt to apply experimental methods to a
natural setting was carried out by Feshbach and Singer (1971) in three private schools
and four boys' homes. The boys were subjected to either a diet of violent television
or a diet of neutral television. Some immediate problems arose: the neutral group
complained bitterly about their diet and by popular request the television series
Batman (a violent programme) had to be allowed. The experiment continued for six
weeks, during which house-parents and teachers recorded the boys' behaviour. In the
private schools little difference was observed between the violent television group and
the neutral television group. However, in the boys' homes aggression towards peers
in the violent television group was almost half that of the neutral television group.
Feshbach and Singer concluded this was further evidence for catharsis, but this was
an unpopular conclusion and stimulated many critical reviews.
One of the most serious methodological problems in this study was that the observers
knew which programmes the children had watched. Wells illuminated this problem
(Wells, 1973) in a similar field experiment where he manipulated the television diet of
young people in 10 residential schools. Overall the main finding was that verbal
aggression was higher in the neutral television group than in the violent television
group, thus supporting Feshbach. However, Wells noted some causes for concern:
there was no significant effect overall on physical aggression but boys who were
above average on aggression in the violent television group became more aggressive
during the experiment. However, this finding was associated with those observers
who inadvertently had become aware of the group to which a child belonged. On
close analysis it seems that the boys were more likely to be rated as aggressive if they
were known to be watching violent films.
Probably the most unusual and adventurous series of field experiments were carried
out by Milgram and Shotland (1973) who carried out a sustained series of experiments
attempting to provoke anti-social behaviour through the use of films. In the original
experiment over 600 adult subjects were recruited to attend a film screening in a
National Television Preview theatre in New York, with a promise that they would
receive a free radio for attending. They saw one of three films all starring the hero
Tom Desmond who loses his job and finding himself desperate for money tries to get
it back only to find that his services are no longer required. When he sees his boss
participating in a telethon to raise funds for a community clinic Tom first dials the
telethon and pours abuse down the telephone at his boss and then smashes the
telethon collection box and pockets the contents and runs into the street. The film was
shown with various endings: in one version Tom is caught by the police and sent to
jail and it appears that his marriage is breaking up (negative ending); in another he
escapes to Mexico where his wife plans to join him (successful outcome); and the third
version (neutral version) Tom thinks about breaking into the collection box but
restrained by thoughts of his family contributes a coin instead. Finally a neutral non-aggressive film was shown which dealt with the love affair of a diplomat.
After seeing the film participants were asked to go to a different building in order to
collect their radio. They arrived one by one to an empty office to find a notice on the
door saying that no more radios were being distributed. In the room was a charity
collection box similar to the one seen in the film, with a dollar note protruding from it.
Of course the reactions of the participants were being observed from behind a one-way screen. Most of the subjects became irritated, paced around the room, looked at
the collection box and left within a few minutes. However, nearly one in five found the
temptation too hard to resist: 15 broke the box and took the money from it; 10
removed the dollar note; 20 tried unsuccessfully to break into the box and 31 people
stole other things. However the important point is there were no differences between
the different film groups. The proportion of dishonesty was the same whatever film
they had seen.
In an even more ambitious study they were able to access a TV programme Medical
Centre which they edited to produce two anti-social versions and one pro-social
version of the same story. This last series of field experiments, which had audiences
of around one million people, again they found no evidence of imitative anti-social
behaviour due to the films.
The only important studies using experimental field techniques to conclude
unreservedly that films mediate aggression have been associated with Leonard
Berkowitz (Leyens, Camino, Parke and Berkowitz, 1975; Parke, Berkowitz, Leyens,
West and Sebastian, 1977). One study took place in America and the other in
Belgium. Both field experiments used institutions for secondary school boys who
lacked either adequate homecare or had got into trouble of some sort or another. The
boys were observed for one week before the experiment began, and then during the
week of the experiment in which they watched commercially produced films rather than
television shows. Five of the films were aggressive, such as Bonnie and Clyde and
The Dirty Dozen and five were neutral or comedy or family films.
In common with many previous studies by Berkowitz the results seem very impressive
at first sight. For example the effects of one or more violent films was to increase
aggression in the young boys by more than forty fold. This is really quite curious since
during the film experiments the young people were not allowed to watch their normal
television. Why should films be so dramatically more effective than television?
However whatever second thoughts might be on the results there is no escaping the
serious weakness in the research. It seems that each boy was observed at the most
for a total of three minutes a day, so the level of measurement was fairly cursory.
More than this, on close examination of the coding procedures would not seem
capable of discriminating between a serious fight and active games of basketball,
since " . . . playful as well as malicious attacks were scored identically . . . ". Moreover
the coders responsible for the data collection were all undergraduate students who
may have been aware of the experimental conditions which they were monitoring,
although no evidence is available on this point. Cook, Kendzierski and Thomas
(1983) conclude that as a body of evidence the field experiments are un-interpretable.
Given the sophistication of so much research in this field and the obvious identification
of confounding variables in any link between media violence and real-life aggression
it is surprising that so many reports have been produced claiming that delinquents
enjoy aggressive television. These date back to Haines (1955) who reports that 100
teenagers in Chicago jails said they thought that films and pornography had
contributed in some way to their criminal histories. Essentially similar arguments were
put forward by Bailey (1993) who suggested that in a large sample of incarcerated
offenders violent film themes were the most popular fare.
As has been noted earlier other factors, such as social class, may provide the causal
explanation of both delinquency and preferences for aggressive television fare. This
was demonstrated very effectively by Halloran, Brown and Chaney (1970) in a large
study of 334 known delinquents with two control samples who had not been in trouble
with the law. One control group was of 144 working class youngsters matched in
terms of age, sex, socio-economic status, intelligence and school attainment, and the
second of 185 boys and girls obtained from slightly higher socio-economic background
and higher school attainment.
All of the participants were interviewed to discover by direct and indirect methods
whether there were any differences in the importance they attached to television or its
prominence in their lives. In table after table there are significant differences between
the delinquent group and the middle class control samples. In table after table there
are significant differences between the two control samples where working class
youngsters prefer aggressive television programmes compared with the middle class
control group. However, in table after table there are no differences between the
delinquent group and the working class controls. The researchers concluded that
television does not have criminogenic effects and that differences in the use of
television may be accounted by social class more than anything else.
Nobel in 1971 reported an interesting experiment using repretory interviews
(structured, probing interviews) to examine the identification preferences of
delinquents compared with a control group. The surprising conclusion that he drew
was that delinquents were less likely to identify with television characters than were
the control group. However Nobel puts forward a somewhat dubious argument that
because delinquents identified less with family members than the control group
therefore the salience of television characters may be greater.
In 1994 the Policy Studies Institute in London published their study of Young
Offenders and the Media (Hagell and Newburn, 1994). From a large sample of
delinquents they selected 200 young people who had been charged or cautioned by
the police a minimum of three times in one calendar year. However they were not
entirely successful in obtaining interviews from all members of this group. When the
research closed they had obtained interviews with only 78 young offenders. The low
(39%) response rate in the delinquent sample is not very surprising (West and
Farrington, 1977). It probably reflects the chaotic, itinerant lifestyle of young offenders
more than their unco-operative anti-social attitudes. Despite the smallness of the
sample the researchers were clearly successful in identifying a group of evident
delinquents. They report that the average number of arrests per offender in 1992 was
4.5 while the total known or alleged offences in 1992 was 10.8 per offender. The
responses of these young offenders to questions about their media use, their preferred
television programmes, their favourite characters on television and so on were
compared with a sample of 538 school children of similar age.
The results were surprising. Overall the offenders had less access to television, video
and other equipment than the comparison school children. Delinquents as a group
reported having fewer television sets, fewer video recorders and less access to non-terrestrial
broadcasting in the places in where they were living. A lower proportion of
offenders than the comparison school children were able to name any favourite
television programmes. The offenders had difficulty in identifying anyone on television
they would like to be like. However with all the groups, offenders and school children,
Arnold Schwarzenegger was a popular choice. For both groups The Terminator. was
in the top five favourite films. However cinema attendance was lower in the offender
group than in school children. Thus half of the offenders said they rarely or never went
to the cinema compared to a quarter of the school children.
The researchers looked more closely at offenders who had been convicted of violent
offences and found they did not differ in their viewing habits from the group as a
whole. Of the offenders who had a favourite television programme the most popularly
mentioned was the police television series The Bill. In addition they enjoyed the same
kind of programmes as the school children including EastEnders, Neighbours, Home
and Away and Prisoner Cell Block H.
Whilst this research does nothing to support concerns about the relationship between
the media and delinquent offending the results were surprising to many. The
researchers had failed to match the group in terms of social class. Working class
social groups typically watch almost twice the amount of television and violence as
their middle class counterparts (Day and Cowie, 1990). Remembering Halloran,
Brown and Chaney's study this would seem to have introduced an in-built bias in
favour of finding that working class young offenders preferred aggressive television
fare. However the most obvious conclusion to be drawn from this research echoes
that of Messner (1986): delinquents are not at home watching television, whether
violent or not. They are out on the streets where their peer group socialisation into
delinquency is the most powerful factor encouraging their offending behaviour (Graef,
1993). Of course it remains possible that among such offenders violent videos are
more of a peer group phenomenon (eg Vogelsang, 1991) but their salience seems
The most recent research on young offenders is reported by Bayliss (1995) at the
Cambridge University Institute of Criminology. This is a thoughtful study focusing on
the fantasy experiences of young offenders compared with a matched comparison
group of socially rewarded young men. Among Bayliss's main findings were firstly that
in their early teens, or beforehand, many young offenders had embarked on an
interwoven mental diet of their own fantasies and consumable drugs which together
" . . . served primarily as analgesics for the chronic emotional pain which had almost
always emerged in a discordant family atmosphere, and for which they had not
developed alternative coping strategies . . . ". Secondly, for most young offenders their
favourite movie character and storyline was seen as reflecting rather than fuelling their
motivations, " . . . it is Arnie Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2 a robot - living tissue
over a metal frame - an invisible man who cannot feel pain who shows no emotion in
voice or face and crucial to their subconscious need a man who travels back in time
to protect, befriend and die for a fourteen year old boy who has no father . . . "
(Bayliss, 1995, personal communication). Unfortunately this kind of approach which
attempts to understand human imagination and how it relates to the narrative forms
of film and television is quite remarkably rare in the vast literature on media violence.
Content and Control
There is little doubt that people are concerned about crime and violence. As a cause
for concern crime has reliably been rated higher than any other issue except
unemployment in many countries (Watkins and Worcester, 1986). However crime and
violence remain quite rare personal experiences for the vast majority of the public.
Thus according to victimisation surveys most people can look forward to a decade or
more of crime-free existence and even then the offence is likely to be quite trivial
(Mayhew et al, 1993).
However secondary experiences of serious crime and violence through the mass
media are a daily occurrence. Indeed it is quite easy to scare monger about the extent
of media crime and violence. Frederic Wertham, an American psychiatrist, claimed
to have studied adolescents ". . . who in comic books, movies and TV have seen more
than 10,000 homicides . . " (Wertham, 1954). More than this, depending on the
newspapers read, the radio stations listened to and the television programmes
watched, the average person's secondary experience of crime and violence might run
to 7,000 acts per annum in the UK and even more than this in other countries
Attempts to quantify the amount of violence on television have been sporadic. Thus
direct comparison between different countries are problematic especially since the
time periods sampled vary from one study to another, while eccentric decisions seem
to have been taken on which programme genres should be included or excluded.
Moreover definitions of violence vary somewhat depending on whether such things as
verbal threats or natural disasters are included. However rates of around 5-6 violent
acts per hour seem to be typical of most countries studied where typically some two
thirds of programmes contain some violence (Cumberbatch, Jones and Lee, 1988).
Such rates were recorded for Australia, New Zealand, France, The Netherlands and
the USA. Somewhat higher rates were observed in Germany and Japan while Finland,
Great Britain, Sweden and Israel were much lower.
The focus of most content analyses has been on terrestrial channels where public
service broadcasting has become eroded over the years (McKinsey, 1993) and been
supplemented by a growing number of cable and satellite channels. Comparisons
between terrestrial and cable/satellite are not easily made since most terrestrial
channels offer a range of programme material within each channel while cable/satellite
achieve a variety across channels. However movie channels might well be expected
to contain more violence than typical of terrestrial television as confirmed by recent
monitoring by the Broadcasting Standards Council in the UK. In this study three
satellite movie channels averaged rates of violence of 7-8 acts per hour which is
almost double that of terrestrial television (4 violent acts per hour) over the same two
week period (Cumberbatch, Maguire and Woods, 1994). An additional finding which
must be relevant to most countries is that programmes from the USA contained around
twice as much violence (and indeed bad language) as UK productions. This was
examined in some detail in an earlier study for the BBC which analysed 1,412 hours
of television output. Here American productions averaged 3.6 violent acts per hour
compared with only 1.1 acts per hour for British programmes. The authors attribute
the difference to the greater predominance of violent genres such as dramatic fiction
and cartoons in the American programmes. However even when these genres are
compared American productions still contained more violent acts at 3.8 per hour
compared with 2.5 per hour for British productions (Cumberbatch et al, 1987).
These data suggest that the growth of the cable/satellite coupled with the decline in
public service broadcasting might well lead to a steady growth in the proportion of
productions from the USA and consequent increases in the amount of violence.
Trends over time have not been reliably monitored but Viemero (1990) noted
considerable increases in violence on Finnish television over the previous decade,
while British and American research suggest little has changed.
What is certainly the case is that the growth of television channels allows the
possibility of children watching a great deal more violence. However the availability
of more choice in most European countries has not had a corresponding increase in
the total amount of time people spend watching television. On average Europeans
spend 2-3 hours per day watching television and total exposure has remained fairly
consistent for the last two decades (Wartella, 1995).
The most striking phenomenon in audience research data is the considerable social
class variation noted in many countries where middle class groups watch far less
television than lower socio-economic groups. Thus in the UK professional/managerial
groups average just over 17 hours per week compared with nearly 31 hours for semi-skilled and unskilled manual occupational groups (Day and Cowie, 1990). Similar
findings have been observed in Germany (Lukesch, 1987) and Sweden (Rosengren
and Windahl, 1989).
Age differences in viewing are more modest. For example 4-7 year olds averaged 149
minutes per day, 8-11 year olds watched 154 minutes, 12-15 year olds rose to 166
minutes, and 16-24 year olds reduced to 149 minutes (Broadcasters' Audience
Research Board, 1990). Similar trends have been noted in Sweden, Finland, Belgium
and Norway (Wartella, 1995).
Despite the popularity of violent action adventure films, Wartella (1995) suggests that
soap operas, comedy and game shows feature in the top ten in all European countries
for which such charts are available.
However the television diet enjoyed by young people changes with age. Very young
children (under the age of six) mainly watch programmes made for child audiences
whereas older children (10-12 years old) tend to watch very little children's
programming (Gunter, 1987).
Part of the reason why soap operas, game and comedy shows are popular with young
people is that television viewing remains a family entertainment. Here television forms
a pivotal role with family routines structured around television habits (Alexander,
1994). Evidence is somewhat ambiguous on the extent to which child audiences
modify family viewing patterns. However by and large programme content does not
seem to be the major factor in assembling an audience for television - the decision
whether or not to view television takes precedence over what to view (Barwise and
Ehrenberg, 1988). Thus television is often described as a "low involvement medium"
where viewers generally are indifferent to its content (Comstock, 1991).
Few children report restrictions on what they watch even though nearly nine out of ten
adults (88%) in one survey believed that ". . . parents should take greater care over
the TV programmes their children watch at home . . ." (Gunter, 1988). Despite the
apparent absence of rules on children's viewing, survey data suggests that families
are more likely to watch action adventure programmes with older children (11-15 year
olds) than younger ones. Moreover the proportion of parents watching any particular
action adventure with their children is directly related to how "harmless" it is rated in
surveys. Thus seven out of ten parents watched The A Team with their children while
fewer than one in ten watched Hill Street Blues with their children present (Gunter,
Conventionally content analyses would record The A Team as more violent than Hill
Street Blues. This reveals the weakness in so many attempts to monitor the amount
of violence on television. Many studies have recorded appalling rates of violence in
children's programming due to such cartoons as Tom and Jerry. However surveys of
public perceptions of television violence reveal that such shows are not perceived to
be violent since "violence" contains a realism element (Howitt and Cumberbatch,
1974; Gunter, 1985). For this reason it would seem crucial for content analyses to
monitor television violence in terms of the programme genres. Cumberbatch et al
(1987) categorised The A Team as "real life cartoon" and focused on violence in
contemporary realistic drama for their discussion of violence which would be reflected
in public concerns.
Realism and graphic detail are certainly among the most prevalent forms of violence
to produce fright responses and are common. Blumer (1933) reported that 93% of the
children in his sample had been frightened by a motion picture. Wilson, Hoffner and
Cantor (1987) report that 75% of their sample had been scared by something they had
seen on television or in a movie. However they also found that over two thirds of
children said they enjoyed scary programmes!
This is of course one of the central issues in debates about media violence. Sadly
many people enjoy violence in the media and children do not differ from their parents
where 75% prefer entertainment programmes to educational ones. This represents
a challenge for those who wish to improve television for children (Stipp, 1993).
Studies of viewing behaviour and experiences have been limited compared with the
research effort put into experiments designed to explore the effects of television.
However they introduce a challenge to many assumptions such as that children are
glued to the box passively absorbing anti-social messages. From these studies it
seems clear that television viewing by children remains largely a social event but can
serve an almost unlimited range of diverse uses and functions. They can use it to be
with the family or to get away from it, to stimulate conversation or avoid it and so on
Perhaps most importantly half of the time that the television set is on the audience is
doing something else. Talking is the most common other activity (Gunter and
Svennevig, 1987). Moreover even young viewers interpret what they see according
to their experience and knowledge of the world such that television is a weak tool to
undermine the beliefs and values of young people (Buckingham, 1993; Hodge and
Tripp, 1986). Indeed many of the assumptions underlying concerns about media
violence are fuelled by an oversimplified view of both television content and the
Perhaps the most pernicious of these is the failure to discriminate between the rich
variety of television fare by categorising all programmes with violence in them as
"violent" and therefore bad. Much dramatic fiction revolves around deeply moral
narratives where good triumphs over evil. The heroes of "violent cartoons" like
Batman are overtly and even excessively moral beings. Indeed the pattern of
television violence is typically that violence for personal gain is punished and only
rewarded when used by "goodies" (forces of law and order) to defeat "baddies"
(Cumberbatch et al, 1987) a point appreciated by even four year old viewers
One final point to be mentioned of the content of television and audience diets was
noted by Wiegman et al (1992). Heavy viewers of violent programmes were also
heavy viewers of pro-social programmes. Whether the failure to find any influence of
violent television on children's aggressivity in this study was due in anyway to their
exposure to pro-social programmes is impossible to say but should not be neglected
in future research.
This review has focused on some of the methodological problems with research in this
field. Investigations of the relationship between television violence and aggression
can too easily contain an in-built bias in favour of finding some link. For example in
correlational studies which tend to predominate it is inevitably the case that children
who are rejected by parents and abused by them are likely to become aggressive and
may seek television as a fantasy world to escape from the harsh realities of their day-to-day existence. The extent to which television plays a role in their development has
not been teased out adequately in existing research.
Similarly with the experimental studies there seems little doubt that the arousal
produced by watching action, fast-paced aggressive programmes may be the primary
source of immediate aggressive responses, as measured in so many studies, but
whether this is an artefact of the testing procedure or has any lasting effect seems in
An overriding consideration in terms of methodology is the tradition of scientific
research to report significant findings and not handle non-significant ones. This leads
to a particular concern in this field that so many studies may be torturing the data until
it confesses something. The fact that these confessions are different in different
studies may remind us of the unreliability of confessions extracted under torture.
Scientists may be reluctant to consider non-significant findings and indeed they are
rarely part of any scientific debate and are unlikely to be published at all (Greenwald,
1975; Melton, 1962; Smith, 1980; Westland, 1978). However especially in the
correlational studies which take so many measures the vast data show up a
prominence of non-significant findings which should at least alert us to the danger that
those that are reported may in fact be unreliable.
It is worth mentioning in this context that the massive study by Belson found no
significant effects of television violence on boys' respect for authority; on their
consideration for other people; on their sleep disturbance or on stealing (Belson,
1975). Violent programme preferences were not linked to their preoccupation with
acts of violence shown on television, or youngsters feeling more willing to commit
those acts or to see violence as a basic part of human nature or to accept violence as
a way to solve their problems. Simple summaries of such enormously detailed
research findings focusing on one measure which offers a statistically significant link
is thus quite misleading. It is also worth remembering that Belson found equally strong
relationships between newspaper readership and aggressive behaviour as he did
between television violence and aggression.
In many ways the persistent problems in this field are more conceptual than
methodological. It is difficult to avoid the feeling that most studies are designed to
prove that television violence causes aggression rather than to understand the role
of television in the social development of children. Children who watch a lot of
television will watch a lot of violence and a lot of other television fare which is overtly
pro-social. It is true that over the years more attention has been paid to possible pro-social effects of television (eg Liebert and Sprafkin, 1988; Liss, Reinhardt and
Fredriksen, 1983; Rushton, 1979; Sprafkin, Gadow and Kant, 1988; Wiegman,
Kuttschreuter and Baarda, 1992). However until an evaluation is made of the role of
television in all aspects of children's lives and their socialisation it may be risky to
draw conclusions about one particular aspect of television's output. This is particularly
important in the context of the predominant theories and methods which are so
influenced and informed by psychological traditions. Until recently these had been
remarkably crude with the inevitable consequence in terms of the research designs
adopted. It would seem essential that research in this field becomes informed by
current theorising within the fields of criminology and of media studies.
At the theoretical level the notion that violence has a simple uni-dimensional effect on
the viewer has been challenged for a long time by the growing tradition of " uses and
gratifications" research which seeks to identify the dynamic relationship that particular
individuals with particular needs and world views may enjoy with the mass media (eg
Bryant and Zillman, 1991; Palmgreen and Rayburn, 1985; Rosengren, Wenner and
Palmgreen, 1985; Taylor and Mullan, 1986; Zillmann, 1985). Essentially this research
perspective demonstrates that viewers are not passive in their use of the media but
actively bring to the viewing situation their own particular attitudes and values which
mean that what they take away from the viewing experience will depend on those
A further conceptual weakness in the research literature to date is a failure to consider
the history and politics of concerns about media violence (eg Rowland, 1983). As
suggested earlier there is a strong tradition of concerns about popular culture. All too
easily academics may be seen as those in opposition to popular culture. The very
long history of concerns about rising crime and the extent to which each new medium
introduced may aggravate this is a matter that is worthy of further attention. Does the
mass media coverage of such concerns influence research perspectives on the
problems? Evidence for this is circumstantial but has been strongly argued by
Cumberbatch (1994) in a critical review of a report produced by Newson (1994)
commissioned by a Member of Parliament to support his campaign to introduce
additional controls over the sale and distribution of videos (Home Office, 1994). The
report by Newson relies heavily of newspaper accounts of rising crime, especially
among juveniles, to assert its case that we have a new problem which must be caused
by violent videos. Press speculation that violent videos caused two ten year old boys
to murder two year old James Bulger was rife at the time. However neither in this case
(Smith, 1993) nor in previous controversial cases (eg Josephs, 1993) has any solid
evidence been forthcoming.
There would seem little doubt that criminal statistics do suggest a massive rise in
violent crime. However it is also clear from victimisation surveys carried out in the
United States and the United Kingdom that the growth in experienced violent crime is
small compared with the growth in criminal statistics. In other words as Mayhew et al
(1993) argue more people increasingly report violent crime but the actual probability
of criminal victimisation lags well behind this. For example Mayhew points out that the
100% increase in recorded violent crime in the UK over the last decade is matched by
a mere 15% increase in actual victimisation. There is an obvious point that the role
of the mass media in this should be considered. More people are concerned about
violent crime and this in itself may fuel fears about the mass media. Clearly we need
to know much more about the way in which the mass media may shape our
perceptions in society, not just at the level of encouraging anti-social behaviour but
encouraging strong feelings against it. In this context it is worth mentioning the
contribution of George Gerbner to this debate. He has argued that the role of
television is to encourage a fear of crime in society. Though evidence on this is
controversial (Gunter and Wober, 1987) it is something that must be part of any
consideration of the power of television (Gonczol, 1993).
This point leads to broader considerations about the role of the mass media in society.
Almost all of the research literature focuses on the simple question "Does mass media
violence cause individuals to be aggressive?". In the criminology literature this idea
of individuals responding uniquely to a particular factor is not taken seriously. Indeed
the stability of aggression is quite remarkable whereby anti-social personalities seem
to be formed as early as five years old (Olweus, 1980; Robins, 1991; Smith, 1995).
Moreover delinquents are not getting younger - in the UK the crime rate peaked at 13
in 1938, 14 in 1961 and 15 in 1983 (Farrington, 1986). Similar findings are reported
in Sweden by Wikstrom (1990). These data rather undermine the thesis that television
has achieved some impact. The issue of crime in society is one that is much broader
than just offenders - importantly it also involves victims who may or may not be less
vulnerable because of what they see on television. Fear of crime for example which
might be aggravated by television may encourage more prudence in dealing with
potential criminal assaults (Mendelsohn, 1983). The same thing may apply to the
social processes of producing crime. Are witnesses more or less likely to report anti-social behaviour or even intervene in witnessing such scenes because of violence on
television.? And what are the effects on the police, the judiciary or the legislature or
indeed public perceptions of these (Cumberbatch and Morgan, 1985)? Mayhew
(1993) has argued that the increase in criminal statistics over the victimisation rate in
society is due mainly to the police taking more active interest in the reporting of violent
crime. Any approach to understanding aggression or crime should consider the
processes which "cause" crime and alter the criminal statistics.
The absence of policy orientated research is a particular weakness. For example
broadcasters need to know what kind of violence should they curtail. Is it fictional
violence set in a contemporary setting? Or is it violence in historical drama? Is it
violence in fictional programming set in the future? Is it important whether or not to
show graphic detail to repulse viewers and make them understand the consequences
if they commit acts of aggression or is it better to remove such details? Is it possible
to advise what kind of programmes might replace those that contain violence, for
example is Sesame St much less harmful than Power Rangers? Are the programmes
which feature violence in cartoons more dangerous than more realistic productions?
Unfortunately answers to these questions are simply not available from the research
evidence (see Dorr, 1988).
In general terms the research literature on mass media violence is disappointing. in
the lack of an overall game plan informed by relevant disciplines. More than anything
it lacks an applied focus which could help inform governments, broadcasters and
producers on what they should do.
However in the Pandora's box of research there is one practical solution that stands
out. A number of studies have carried out interventions attempting to persuade young
people that television violence is not a good thing and it should be viewed critically,
for example Huesmann, Eron, Clean, Price and Fisher (1983) asked school children
to write essays on why television violence is bad and unreal. This not only reduced
aggression as rated by peers but reduced that correlation between violence viewing
and aggression which has been so much the focus of so much research. Similar
experiments are reported by Singer, Zuckermann and Singer (1980); Anderson,
(1983); Sprafkin, Swift and Hess (1983); Sprafkin, Gadow and Kant (1988); Eron
(1986); and Vooijs and Van der Voort (1993).
Such interventions may not tell us anything about the usual effects of television and
may not even have anything to with the effects of television per se but it would seem
the most promising line to follow. After all given the growth of satellite and cable and
other systems to reproduce film material the violent media horse has already bolted.
Thus the most practical solution to the issue of media violence must be to introduce
media education into the curricula of all countries. This could not do any harm and
would at least inform debate on this vexed issue. Finally, the question which has not
been raised so far in the research literature is why so many people are not affected
by television violence. If we can begin to understand how people can protect
themselves against such potential influences then we may begin to develop an
understanding of how people can cope with all vicissitudes in life and develop social
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