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The Effects Of Media On Aggression In Children

The effects of media on aggression in children

In psychology, the term aggression refers to a range of behaviours that can result in both physical and psychological harm to oneself or other objects in the environment. This type of social interaction centres on harming another person either physically or mentally. The expression of aggression can occur in several ways, including verbally mentally and physically. Psychologists distinguish between different forms of aggression different purpose of aggression and different types of aggression. There are a few main types of aggression first is impulsive aggression also known as affective aggression this type of aggression characterised by strong emotions usually anger. This form of aggression is not planned and often takes place in the heat of the moment and example of this would be when you are driving and another car cuts you off in traffic and you begin yelling and berating the other driver you are experiencing impulsive aggression. The other type of aggression is instrumental aggression, which is also known as predatory aggression this type of aggression is characterised by behaviours that are intended to achieve a larger goal. Instrumental aggression is often planned and usually exists as a mean to an end.

There are multiple theories that attempt to explain aggression, but in this essay, the two that will be discussed are Freud’s theory on aggression and the social learning theory of aggression. First off will be the Freud’s theory which, according to his theory, human aggression is an instinctive drive related to the person and not the situation, and therefore part of human life. Freud believed that all humans possess two basic drives from birth that contributes to personality development and behaviour. The drive for aggression (Thanatos) and the drive for pleasure (Eros). Thanatos or destructive energy expresses itself in aggression to others as well as self-destructive behaviour. Moreover, the two primitive forces life and death instincts seek constant expression and satisfaction while at the same time opposing one another in our subconscious.

Freud viewed the aggressive drive as part of the ID the part of the psyche that motivates behaviour while the ego our rational self and superego our ideal image of ourselves (morally) oppose or repress the aggressive impulses. The conflict between the different part of personality creates tension in the individual who then uses a defence mechanism these defence mechanisms being behaviour such as displacement which is where you take out your anger and frustration on a person or object not the actual ‘target’ of your anger another example of this would also be sublimation which is where you are channelling your aggression into other acceptable behaviour this usually being competitive and sometimes more violent sports.

Thus, according to this theory, one can never eliminate aggression, but only be able to try to control it by channelling it into the previously mentioned defence mechanisms.

Supporting studies can be hard to find for this theory as it deals with the ‘’unconscious ‘’ but there are studies, for example, one was conducted by Megargee and Mendelsohn were their aim was to see if there is a link between aggression and personality types. The method they used involved having people who committed brutally aggressive crimes have interviews and personality tests, the results of their research showed that these criminals seemed to have been ‘’over controlled’’ and repressed their anger until it built up to such an extent it just exploded following something trivial. What they concluded was that if people do not let their aggression instinct out in small amounts from time to time the build-up will be so great they will not be able to control it.

Though this is supportive evidence for Freud’s theory the research itself has a few issues one of them being that it is difficult to standardise ‘frustration’. What is frustrating for one person may not be for another. Another issue is that since interviews were used, it is possible for the candidates to just lie during it. Freud’s theory on aggression itself has a few issues one of them being is that it is too deterministic as there is little to no account for free will and another issue with this theory is that it ignores mediation all processes such as thinking or memory.

The other theory that will be discussed in this essay is the social learning theory which was made by Albert bandura. Social learning theory was created to explain how behaviour may be learned through the observation of other models. Social learning theory proposes that we learn how to display aggression in different forms when we to display it and the target to display it towards through the observation of other people’s behaviours. Bandura proposes observation of behaviour is the primary way for children to learn aggression through role models which are then subsequently imitated. This was more likely to occur when children were able to identify in some form with the actual model. Through observation children also learn about consequences of aggression and see whether there is positive reinforcement (through the model achieving what they wanted) or whether it is punished. This is known as direct or vicarious reinforcement.

Bandura and Ross conducted a study to see if aggression could be learned through media. The study had three conditional groups of children observe a short film where a model was aggressive towards a bobo doll both physically and verbally. One group observed a model behave aggressively and then rewarded for this behaviour through sweets, drinks, and praise. Another condition saw the model behave aggressively but then punished for this aggression towards the doll. The control condition saw no consequences for the aggressive behaviour. Prior to the reward the children who had observed the model be punished for their aggression towards the doll were seen the least aggressive compared to the other conditions. The group who saw the model rewarded as well as the control group who saw no reinforcement and displayed similar levels of aggression. Once the reward was introduced, however, all three groups performed the same level of aggressive behaviour which highlights that the aggression had been learnt irrespective of reinforcement.

On the topic of nature or nurture both theories make a clear point on what influences children’s behaviour. For the social learning theory, it’s a child’s environment (including media) that affects children’s aggression while for Freud’s theory aggression is innate and therefore we have no control over it.