High levels of relationship aggression are found in numerous television shows and films, even in children’s programming. In these programs, relational aggression is often portrayed as humorous, justified, customary, rewarded and sociologically abundant by attractive girls. Also know as the “mean girls” phenomenon, this type of violence is typically aimed towards elementary to high school level females but also affects males on a smaller scale. When children are viewing comical, laugh-track abundant programs where the joke is on the weirdo or the awkward character, be aware that these “scripts” are being added to their adolescent brains.
It simply wasn’t possible to find evidence that stated violence in media has no effect on the viewer. None of the research recommended directly or indirectly aggressive programs to be watched by children, adolescents or adults. It was quite clear to every researcher that media teaches; it offers behavioral options to viewers. When the options presented are aggressive, the viewer learns them. Even if viewers can control their impulses to solve problems with direct violence, the aggressive scripts influence their moods and their communication.
So, viewer, if you are struggling with anger, anxiety, a lack of calm, manipulative behavior, negative thoughts, or aggressive behavior… you may want to examine the media content you’re consuming.
But even more relevant, filmmaker—if you want to influence the world for good, if you want to contribute to peaceful societies that live in harmony—start by creating narratives that emulate this reality. Teach us how to do it. Give us the scripts we need to overcome the violence and aggression that’s been bombarding us.
We’ll be wrapping up this series in our forth and final post next month. Stay tuned.
[i] Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 27–51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135231
[ii] Coyne, Sarah M. "Effects of Viewing Relational Aggression on Television on Aggressive Behavior in Adolescents: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study." Developmental Psychology, vol. 52, no. 2, 2016, pp. 284-95. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018. (pg. 286)
[iii] Joint statement on the impact of entertainment violence on children: Congressional Public Healthy Summit. (2000, July 26). Retrieved January 30, 2018 from http://public.psych.iastate.edu/caa/VGVpolicyDocs/00AAP%20-%20Joint%20Statement.pdf
[iv] Huesman, L.R. (1986). Psychological processes promoting the relation between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior by the viewer. Journal of Social Issues, 42, 125-139
[v] Coyne, Sarah M., John Archer, and Mike Eslea. "Cruel intentions on television and in real life: Can viewing indirect aggression increase viewers’ subsequent indirect aggression?" J. Experimental Child Psychology 88, 2004, pp. 234-53. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.
[vi] Coyne, Sarah M. "Effects of Viewing Relational Aggression on Television on Aggressive Behavior in Adolescents: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study." Developmental Psychology, vol. 52, no. 2, 2016, pp. 284-95. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.