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Aggressive and Prosocial Television Programs and the Natural Behavior of Preschool Children

Lynette Kohn Friedrich and Aletha Huston Stein
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 38, No. 4, Aggressive and Prosocial Television Programs and the Natural Behavior of Preschool Children (Aug., 1973), pp. 1-64
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1165725
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1165725
Page Count: 67
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Aggressive and Prosocial Television Programs and the Natural Behavior of Preschool Children
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Abstract

Ninety-three preschool children, enrolled in a 9-week nursery school session, were shown one of three types of television programs each day during the middle 4 weeks of the session. The programs were aggressive cartoons ("Batman" and "Superman"), prosocial programs ("Misterogers Neighborhood"), and neutral films. Observations of aggressive and prosocial interpersonal behavior, and self-regulation in free play were carried out during the entire nursery school session. The effects of the programs were assessed by the changes that occurred from the baseline period to the periods during and after exposure to the programs. Children who saw the aggressive programs showed a decline in (1) tolerance of delay, and (2) rule obedience. The effects on interpersonal aggression were limited to the half of the sample that was initially above the group median. For those children, the group who saw the aggressive programs showed more interpersonal aggression than those who saw the neutral programs. There were no effects of television programs on the aggressive behavior of children who were initially below the median in aggression. Children exposed to the prosocial programs showed higher levels of task persistence and somewhat higher levels of rule obedience and delay tolerance than those in the neutral condition. These differences were especially pronounced for children with above-average intelligence. There was increased prosocial interpersonal behavior following exposure to the prosocial program for children from lower-SES-status families but not for higher-SES subjects. Neither attention to the programs nor knowledge about their content was consistently related to behavior change. Home viewing patterns did not predict baseline behavior.

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