Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





Psychology, Social.




Television is nearly universal and young children are among the prime viewers. Citizens are concerned that television with its high rate of violence may be a more important guide to behavior than parents or teachers. This study investigates the effects on children's behavior of viewed aggression varying both the level to which viewed actions are represented as authentic portrayals of real-life aggressive behavior and the level of approval for the portrayed behavior that is provided by an adult co-viewer. A critical review of the literature resulted in three hypotheses: increasing levels of authenticity and adult co-viewer approval associated with a portrayal of aggressive behavior interact to increase levels of children's aggression as a result of the viewed presentation (Hypothesis I); levels of children's aggressive behavior will decrease directly with decreasing levels of authenticity associated with viewed aggression (Hypothesis II); and levels of children's aggressive behavior will decrease directly with decreasing levels of adult co-viewer approval expressed towards portrayals of aggression (Hypothesis III). A 3 x 2 factorial design was used. The first factor represents three levels of increasing adult co-viewer approval and the second represents two levels of authenticity of the scene. The subjects, 84 public school boys ranging in age from 10 to 13 years, were randomly assigned in equal numbers to one of the six experimental conditions. Each subject observed an aggressive scene on television while an adult co-viewer expressed either verbal approval, no comment, or verbal disapproval. These three conditions were combined with presentation of the scene with either a "high" or "low" level of authenticity (i.e., real or simulated aggression). Pre- and post-tests were conducted before and after the manipulation of the independent variables to obtain measures of each subject's aggressiveness. Duration and frequency of button-pressing responses, through which a subject ostensibly could anonymously either "help" or "interfere" with a peer's behavior were recorded. The procedure concluded with a post-experimental questionnaire which in part tested the validity of the experimental procedure and the impact of the independent variables. The data from the pre- and post-tests supported Hypothesis III. While the trends for Hypothesis I and Hypothesis II were in the predicted direction they were non-significant. It appears that the impact of televised aggression upon children's behavior is highly dependent on adult co-viewer comments. Disapproving comments or approving comments tend to respectively decrease or increase children's subsequent levels of aggression. Varying levels of authenticity had a marginal impact upon children's reaction to the presentation but did not significantly interact with the approval variable. Previous studies which showed that varying the levels of authenticity of the viewed material affect children's subsequent behavior, involved more salient modes of specifying authenticity and unlike the present study tested the impact of the presentation with obvious adult surveillance during testing. The present manipulation of the level of authenticity showed no significant effect and no interaction with the approval variable. This study suggests that televised violence should not be viewed as a threat to parental authority. When adults, perhaps unknowingly, indicate approval of violence, television may stimulate aggression. Adults who ignore television or see it as a baby-sitter, may be permitting haphazard factors to influence their children's learning of social standards. Television, however, can be used by adults as an effective teaching tool. Parents can teach and reinforce their standards of behavior even with programming presenting contrary messages by showing their approval or disapproval of the programs.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1980 .G643. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 42-03, Section: B, page: 1231. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1981.