Is It Television?
The Roots of Violence
● Dr. Leonard Eron has observed the long-term effects of TV violence on children. This research professor of the social sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle stated in the interview that violent behavior is learned, and that TV plays a big role.
Why was your research study unique?
We studied the same youngsters over a twenty-one-year period to see what contributed toward some becoming highly aggressive. In 1960 we began with 875 eight-year-olds. Ten years later we reinterviewed 475 of them and their peers. We just finished a twenty-year follow-up with over 400.
What were your results?
We found that the greater a child’s preference for violent TV at age eight, the greater his hostility both then and ten years later. Our study has been duplicated in five countries. We have the results from Finland and Poland. They confirm our findings.
Do you feel that TV violence causes the aggression, or do violent children simply like to watch violence?
To our surprise, we found that eight-year-olds who were not aggressive but watched much violent TV were significantly more violent by age nineteen than were those youngsters who, when eight years old, were highly aggressive but saw little TV violence.
How does watching TV violence cause aggression?
It teaches a way of solving problems. It rehearses these solutions over and over. They see the main character of a program or cartoon use violent tactics successfully, and they may try the same.
Is TV violence the only cause?
No. A child’s rearing has a great effect. We found that when parents fought each other, rejected the child or used harsh punishment, the children became more aggressive. However, our study showed that a child who felt his parents cared about him when he was punished for aggression became less aggressive and the punishment worked. But caring parents are usually not harsh punishers.
Which has a greater influence—violent TV or violent parents?
It is hard to say. But we found that in determining how violent an eight-year-old could become at age nineteen, his TV habits were a more accurate predictor than anything else, including parental disharmony and social status. In our recent three-year Chicago study we corrected the attitude of some children who watched much TV violence. They became less aggressive, though other aspects of their life were unchanged.
What do you believe parents can do about the problem?
They should control what their children watch. Also, explain to the children that what they see on TV is not reality, that you do not solve problems by beating someone up. Our small efforts to explain how unrealistic TV is had significant results. How much more so if parents would do the same.