The Relationship Between Television Viewing And Aggressive Behaviour

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

The Relationship Between Television Viewing And Aggressive Behaviour


The study examined the relationship between television aggressive behaviour and students academic performance in selected secondary schools in Mainland Local Government Area of Lagos State. Some relevant and related literatures were reviewed in this study under sub-headings. The research survey was used in the assessment of respondents’ opinions. The questionnaire was used to collect vital information from the respondents, while the sampling technique was applied in selection of the samples for this study. A total of 120 (one hundred and twenty) respondents were selected for this study, and four null hypothesis were formulated and tested, with the application of the Pearson Product Moment tool and the t-test statistics at 0.05 level of significance.

At the end of the tests, the following results were obtained:

  1. There is a significant relationship between violent television programmes and aggressive behaviour of adolescents.
  2. Hypothesis two found that there is a significant relationship between aggressive behavior and adolescents’ academic performance at the senior secondary school level.
  3. Hypothesis three showed that there is a significant relationship between violent television programmes and the social adjustment of adolescents in schools.
  4. Finally, hypothesis four revealed that there is no significant gender difference in aggressive behaviour due to violent television viewing among students

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

The potential effect of television viewing on children’s aggressive behaviour has been a source of concern and research interest since the introduction of television (Greenstein, 1994). Generally, many feared that television viewing would have a negative impact on the behaviour of most especially, the adolescents in the schools, because viewing, especially violent television programmes, will affect the character or behaviour of the viewing child. Not only the behaviour, children who form the habits of viewing aggressive television programmes, turn out to be low achievers in their academics.

A number of studies on the content of television programming confirms the popular impression that violence is persuasive on television (Garbner and Cross, 1994). Since the average adult spends more than three hours a day watching television and most children watch at least two hours per day, both adults and children are exposed to a lot of television violence (Lyle & Hoffman, 1992).

Many (Garbner and Cross, 1994, Lyle & Hoffman, 1992) feel that a steady diet of televised violence increases the tendency of the viewers, especially children, to behave aggressively. Since most children spend so much time watching television and since viewing an aggressive model can influence aggression it might follow that watching aggression on television can foster aggressive impulse among children. Through watching televised aggression children become emotionally aroused, learn that aggression is acceptable, become accustomed to viewing violence and so on.

In the society, there has been a dramatic increase in interpersonal violence in the last century which occurred at the same time with the dramatic changes in life styles produced by the great technological renovations of the 20th century. Notable of these is the introduction of the mass media into children’s everyday life. It is not surprising therefore, that speculations about violent behaviour has been prevalent in the society since motion pictures showing violent acts were first distributed. With the advent of television in the early 1950s, violence surrounds us not only in real life but also in our environment as films and movies emphasized it. With improved techniques, television in both its news reports and entertainments, provides a steady show of violence. Riot, uprising, wars, terriorism, raids, and rapes all are parts of our daily lives in the news (Johncourt, 2000).

Fredrick & Stein (1995) described television as a dominating powerful drug on the minds of children, as rather a conveyor of cultural values, attitudes and beliefs that is homogenizing our society and a socialization agent of a child along side with the school, the family, and the peer group. Yet, the television has not received much attention in terms of research as other agents of socialization especially, in developing countries like Nigeria. Hence, the reason for this research work. Robert et al (1991).

In addition, to providing entertainment television has impact on children’s learning both in school and out of school since television is a “powerful teaching tool”. Palmerton and Jones (1994). The effect of its violent programmes which is not doubt very important on children’s behaviour needs to be investigated and curbed.

Violence pervades in lots of programmes on the television. If you turn on your television set, you see dramas in which people are stabbed, shot, beaten, or poisoned. Cartoons in which animals inflict injuries on one another in an amazing number of ways. Violence permeates sports as in the case of boxing and wrestling. There have been several soccer games related riots in which hundreds of fans were injured or killed. A number of studies of the content of television programming confirms the popular impression that violence is prevalent on television, (Gerbner and Cross, 1994).

Television has been criticized of showing “foreign films which propagates the culture of immorality”. Thus, brutalizing the highly impressionable minds of our children (Igbinedon, 1994). The local films have nothing to offer than violence, rituals, killings and murder as rightly reported by Mr. Zack Amata (Guardian Saturday, December 16, 2000). Children believe everything they see in the television and they imitate and behave that way. This is because, the child’s intelligence is still developing and unequal to the task for accessing and evaluating what he sees on television because, they cannot distinguish between realities and the world of fantasy.

Apart from learning specific aggressive behaviours, exposure to violent television programmes teaches attitudes, norms and values that are conducive to violence (Bandura, 1983). It is believed that most violent children like watching violent programmes on the television. It is undisputable fact that television influences behaviour either directly or indirectly. The effect of violent television programmes on the aggressive behaviour of children cannot be over-emphasized. It has been reported that across all channels, television violence contributes to the learning of aggressive behaviour and attitudes in children.

Violence is made more acceptable to children because of the way and manner it is portrayed on the television programmes. It is shown as the great adventure, means to achieve, one’s goals and he who is best as it wins. There is no doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behaviour, crime and violence in the society today. Thus, making the society an unsafe place to live in (Dada, 1993).

The effect of television on the social adjustment and academic performance of young people is in most cases damaging (Brown et al, 1990). Children prefer watching television to reading their books. It is rampant these days to hear children discussing among themselves about the programmes they watched on the television during lesson periods. This has some negative effects on their academic work because, they spend more of their time on television than in their studies. Children that watch late right movies till early hours of the morning wake up late to prepare for school. Consequently, they are late to classes and often sleep while lesson is going on. Also, children who are exposed to violent television viewing, end up being aggressive to their fellow peers and others in the society.

1.1.1 Theoretical Framework of the Study

The theoretical framework on which this study is anchored fall into two theories.

  1. The Correlational Studies (The Experimenters)
  2. The Catharsis Theory
1.1.2 The Correlational Studies (The Experimenters)

The co-relational studies theorists like Bandura (1985), McIntyre and Teevan, (1992) Evon, (1993); Baker & Ball (1999); Stern et al (2002), Rosenbaum et al (2003); Walters et at (2005), believe that violent television programmes make children to develop aggressive behaviour or accept high – levels of aggression as a fact of daily living Argyle (2004). The research paradigm employed by many of the experimenters investigating modeling effects has invariably and almost inevitably involved the imitation of a model by an observer. An imitation event is defined as one in which new responses occur (Brown, 1996). The experimental design usually involves the presentation of a model performing in a specified manner. An opportunity is then provided for the observer, in a period of free expression, to imitate the model Aleth et al (1998).

Experimental studies of modeling process have been concerned with the differing effects of a variety of models on the imitative behaviour of the viewer. The findings predictably revolve around the basic psychological principle that the more attractive or the more rewarding the model appears to the particular viewer, the more likely he is to imitate its behaviours. It is demonstrable that when the model is rewarded for his actions the child observes and imitate more than when the model is punished Robert et al (1994).

Bandura (1985) suggests that children learn to imitate the behaviour of a model towards a stimulus by the contiguity of similar stimuli and mediation. This theory, stated more concretely, suggest that a child observes a model performing and retains images of this behaviour. At a later time, perhaps when the model is no longer present, the child, on entering a situation which is sufficiently similar to that in which the model performed, will associate some part or all of the behaviour displayed by the model. Imitation of the model is unusual, but partial imitation may occur and other behaviour may show obvious signs of being inspired by that of the model.

Correlational materials of Teevan (1992) shows an association between exposure to aggressive television programmes and various measures of aggression among children and adolescents. Correlational studies, show that children who are aggressive watch more violent television programmes than children who are less aggressive. Many other studies have found correlations between preference for television violence and children’s aggressive behaviour (Evon, 1993; Baker and Ball, 1999). From the above studies, it is evidence that watching violent television programmes expose viewers (children) to aggressive behaviour.

1.1.3 The Catharsis Theory

As Blau (1958) puts it, there are many researchers who are of the view that watching violent television programmes does not make children aggressive. This is called the Catharsis theory. Researchers like Butcher (2001), Albert (2005), Dollard (1999), Emery (1999), Kenny (2002), postulated that experiencing an emotion is a way to release it. Generalized to viewing aggression the Catharsis theory would maintain that watching violent drama enables people to release their pent-up hostilities (Kenny, 1994).

The concept of Catharsis is usually credited to Aristotle. Although, Aristotle actually said nothing about aggression, he did argue that we can purge emotions by experiencing them and that viewing the classic tragedies therefore, enable a catharsis (purgation) of pity and fear. To have emotion excited, the believe is to have that emotion released (Butcher, 1991). For a while, evidence suggested that violence and aggression on films and television had a therapeutic value the catharsis theory. Exponents of this theory suggest that the involvement of fantasy aggression may serve as a displacement, providing a harmless release for children’s hostile impulses, thus reducing the instigation to overt acts of aggression (Albert 1997; Dollard et al, 1999; Emery, 1999; Kenny, 1992; Lovas, 1989; Siegal, 1996).

Feshbach (1995) produced experimental support for the catharsis theory. He found that self initiated verbal responses while writing the Thematic Appreception Technique (TAT) stories following the arousal of aggression led to a reduction in the amount of subsequent interpersonal aggression. The original formulation of the catharsis theory, as a result of largely negative experimental findings has been revised by some theorists Buss (1991); Feshbach, (1995). They contend that the cathartic or drive reducing function of aggressive modeling stimuli occurs only under certain specified condition. Witnessing the behaviour of aggression models supposedly decreases subsequent aggression when the observer has been aggressively aroused at the time of exposure. If on the other hand, the aggressive drive has not been activated, such exposure increases ensuring aggressive response. Many experiments used in support of the catharsis theory is that exposure to aggressive films arouses anxiety in the viewer and consequently, subsequent aggressive behaviour is inhibited.

The catharsis theory has been extended to include the emotional released supposedly obtained not only by observing drama but also through expressing, emotions and through various actions. Observing aggressive models can lower inhibitions and elicit imitation. This suggests new ways to reduce brutal; dehumanizing portrayals in films and on television. Steps comparable to those already taken reduced racists and sexist portrayals. It also suggests inoculating children against the effect of media violence. Despairing that the television network would ever face the facts and change their programming (Cross et al, 2002). These theories are relevant to this research findings and general observations that violent television programmes contributes to the aggressive behaviour of children either directly or indirectly.

The major implication of the importance of these theories in this research work is the clear need for a reduction in the level of violence portrayed on television. At the same time, it is equally important to encourage broadcasters to modify the balance of television programming in favour of pro-social content.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Children who watch a lot of violence television programmes accept violence as a normal behaviour. This is very obvious by the standard of aggression they display (Emery, 1999). They resort to confrontation to solve their problems. They are like animals ready to tear their prey at the least provocation. Thus, the heartless destruction of lives and properties.

They may also take to smoking, drinking, rapes and in more serious cases, get involved in drug addictions and crimes imitating what they watched on the television. No wonder there is an increase in cases of armed robbery, prostitution, sexual harassment, stealing, examination malpractices and other anti-social behaviours perpetrated by the youths in our society these days. These are peculiar problems that necessitated this study.

Also, parents are not helping the matter, the affluent parents equip each room with TV and DSTV with the stand by generators thereby giving their children unlimited access to violent television/programme and this has in any case, distorted their children’s psyche and behaviours in the society.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between television viewing and aggressive behaviour among adolescents in Mainland Local Government Schools in Lagos State.

Other objectives of the study include to:

  1. Determine the relationship between violent television programmes and aggressive behaviour of adolescents.
  2. Examine whether there is a relationship between aggressive behaviour of students and their academic performance in schools.
  3. Find out whether a relationship exists between violent television programmes and the social adjustment of youths in the society.
  4. Investigate whether gender difference exists in the aggressive behaviour of adolescents due to exposure to violent television viewing.

1.4 Research Questions

The study attempts to answer the following questions:

  1. Will there be any relationship between violent television programmes and aggressive behaviour of adolescent?
  2. Is there any relationship between aggressive behaviour of students and academic performance in schools?
  3. Is there any significant relationship between violent television programmes on the social adjustment of youths in the society?
  4. Will there be any significant gender difference in aggressive behaviour due to violent television viewing.

1.5 Research Hypotheses

  1. There will be no significant relationship between violent television programmes and aggressive behaviour of adolescents.
  2. There will be no significant relationship between aggressive behaviour and academic performance of senior secondary school students.
  3. There will be no significant relationship between violent television programmes and the social adjustment of adolescents in schools.
  4. There will be no significant gender difference in aggressive behaviours manifested by adolescents due to violent television viewing.

1.6 Significance of the Study

  1. It is crystal and abundantly clear that violent television programmes influences behaviour of children either directly or indirectly. With this notion, this study will enable children to read more of their books than spending hours watching television. It will also enable them to realize that all what they see on television are mostly film tricks and should not be imitated.
  2. The study will be significant to educators because the information gathered can help to develop educational theory which will be useful in the social development of the adolescent.
  3. The study is significant to parents in the sense that they should be able to control and monitor the type of programmes their children watch on television and the time to watch.
  4. Producers will be encouraged to produce more educative programmes which will help in the children’s academic development.
  5. The government will see the importance which are transmitted by the television stations and ensure the implementation of these strategies.

1.7 Scope of Study

This work is limited to the Senior School Students in Mainland Local Government Educational Districts of Lagos State and covered four secondary schools in the above mentioned education district. It also covered the relationship between the television viewing and aggressive behaviour among adolescents.

1.8 Definition of Terms

1. Violent:

Any overt depiction of the use of physical force or credible threat or physical force intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings Brown (1986).

Violence also includes certain depictions of physically harmful consequences against an animate being or group that occur as a result of unseen violence means National Television Violence Study Executive Summary (1990).

2. Aggression:

Aggression refers to behaviour which is intended to harm other people or property physically or verbally, or in some other ways, Argyle (1984).

Social psychologists David et al (1994) debate how to define aggression, but agreed that we should shapen our vocabulary by distinguishing between self assured energetic, go-getting behaviour and behaviour that hurts, harms or destroys. The former is assertiveness, the later is clearly and surely is aggressive.

Aggression can also be defined as a physical or verbal behaviour intended to hurt some one. This excludes auto accidents, dental treatment and side walk collisions. It includes actions intended to hurt someone, slaps, direct insults even gossipy “digs” Gerald and Thomas (1983).

3. Academic Performance:

Is regarded as the display of knowledge attained or skills, shown in the school, such achievements are indicated by test scores by marks assigned by teachers. It is the school evaluation of students classroom work as quantified on the basis of marks or grades. Akinboye (1984)

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