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Friday, 29 March 2002 00:00
“Television viewing and aggressive behavior were assessed over a 17-year interval in a community sample of 707 individuals. There was a significant association between the amount of time spent watching television during adolescence and early adulthood and the likelihood of subsequent aggressive acts against others. This association remained significant after previous aggressive behavior, childhood neglect, family income, neighborhood violence, parental education, and psychiatric disorders were controlled statistically.”

“Three to five violent acts are depicted in an average hour of prime-time television and 20 to 25 violent acts are depicted in an average hour of children's television. Research has indicated that viewing television violence is associated with aggressive behavior. However, important questions regarding the nature and direction of this association remain unanswered. Several theories hypothesize that television violence contributes to the development of aggressive behavior. An alternative hypothesis is that some or all of the association is due to a preference of violent television programs among aggressive individuals. Research has provided support for both hypotheses. It has also been hypothesized that certain environmental characteristics, such as living in an unsafe neighborhood and being raised by neglectful parents increase the likelihood of both aggressive behavior and viewing television violence. This hypothesis has not been extensively investigated.”

“There was significant associations between television viewing during early adolescence and subsequent aggressive acts against other persons after the covariates that were significantly associated with television viewing and aggressive behavior were controlled statistically. Television viewing at mean age 14 remained significantly associated with any subsequent aggressive act against another person after controlling for prior (AOR = 1.86; CI: 1.32-2.61) and subsequent television viewing (AOR = 1.46; CI: 1.05-2.60). Television viewing at mean age 14 was not associated with risk for subsequent property crimes, including arson, vandalism, or theft. Time spent watching television during early adolescence was associated with risk for subsequent aggressive acts among youths with and without a history of aggressive behavior. The statistical interactions of television viewing with sex and previous aggression were not significantly associated with subsequent aggressive behavior.”

“In the male subsample, television viewing at mean age 14 was associated with subsequent assaults or fights resulting in injury and any aggressive act against another person. Although the prevalence of subsequent aggressive acts increased in relation to television viewing at mean age 14 among both the male and female subsamples, the association did not attain statistical significance in the female subsample. The association between television viewing at mean age 14 and any aggressive act against another person was significantly stronger in the male subsample than in the female subsample (z = 2.17; P = 0.03).”

“There was a significant association between time spent watching television at mean age 22 and subsequent aggressive acts against other persons after the covariates were controlled statistically. This association remained significant after controlling for prior television viewing (AOR = 1.65; CI: 1.07-1.99). Television viewing at mean age 22 was not associated with risk for subsequent property crimes, including arson, vandalism, or theft.”

“The present findings indicate that extensive television viewing by adolescents and young adults is associated in an increased likelihood of committing aggressive acts against others. Our findings suggest that this association is only partially attributable to environmental characteristics that are associated with both television viewing and aggressive behavior. These findings are also consistent with the hypothesis that extensive television viewing partially mediates, or helps to explain the association between certain environmental risks and subsequent aggressive behavior. It should be noted that a strong inference of causality cannot be made without conducting controlled experiment, and we cannot rule out the possibility that some other covariates that were not controlled in the present study may have been responsible for these associations. Epidemiological studies, such as the present study, are conducted when it is not permissible to conduct a controlled experiment due to the adverse outcomes that may result from prolonged exposure to a potentially harmful stimulus.”

“What may account for the gender differences in timing of effects of extensive television viewing? One possibility, which remains to be explored, is a difference in the content of programs watched by males and females during adolescence and early adulthood. However, violent acts are depicted frequently on television, and previous research has supported the hypothesis that televised violence accounts, in large measure, for the association between television viewing and aggression.”

“Our finding that one index of adolescent aggression was associated with subsequent television viewing after the covariates were controlled is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a bidirectional relationship between television violence and aggressive behavior. However, time spent watching television was associated with subsequent aggression, whether or not there was a history of aggressive behavior. Thus, although aggressive individuals may spend somewhat more time watching television that do other individuals, this tendency does not appear to explain the preponderance of the association between television viewing and aggressive behavior.”


Jeffrey G. Johnson, Patricia Cohen, Elizabeth M. Smailes, Stephanie Kasen, and Judith S. Brook, "Television viewing and aggressive behavior during adolescence and adulthood", Science, March 29, 2002, Vol. 295, Num. 0, pp. 2468-2471

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