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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Television exposure and children’s aggressive behaviour Joy, Lesley Ann


The impact of television on children's aggressive behaviour was studied longitudinally in the context of a natural experiment. The study was conducted in three small towns in British Columbia, Canada, first in 1973, when one town, Notel, did not yet have television reception, and again in 1975, two years after Notel received one Canadian channel, CBC. In both 1973 and 1975 the second town, Unitel, received CBC, and the third town, Multitel, received CBC and the three major U.S. networks (ABC, CBC, and NBC). The major focus of the study was on the aggressive behaviour displayed by elementary school children at play on the school grounds; physical and verbal aggressive behaviours of 120 children at time 1 and 120 children at time 2 were coded by observers. In addition, teacher and peer ratings of aggressive behaviour and information about television viewing habits were obtained. The aggressive behaviour of children in Notel increased significantly from 1973 to 1975, whereas, the aggressive behaviour of children in Unitel and Multitel did not change significantly over the same period. The increase in aggressive behaviour observed in Notel children was not restricted merely to children initially high in aggression, as previous researchers have suggested (Stein & Friedrich, 1975). On the whole, the peer and teacher ratings supported the findings from the observational measures of aggression, and consistent sex differences were found for physical aggression. That is, males were more physically aggressive than females. The information collected about children's favourite shows revealed no differences between the aggressive and less aggressive children. In addition, there was no difference among the three towns in the repertoires of aggressive behaviour displayed. The most probable explanation of the increased aggression in Notel children was heightened arousal, resulting from Notel children's lack of familiarity with television. Heightened arousal would result in a greater likelihood of aggression being elicited. Furthermore, because children learn from television that aggression is acceptable, appropriate, and effective, the increase in aggressive behaviour would likely be maintained.

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