TV Linked to Social Aggression in Girls
Martins publishes results after surveying over 500 elementary school students
Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
The January 2012 issue of Human Communication Research features results from a survey conducted by Assistant Professor Nicole Martins on over 500 students in grades K-5. The study was designed to determine whether watching socially aggressive content on television is related to children's use of social aggression during interpersonal interactions in the classroom.
Defining social aggression non-physical aggression which is nonetheless damaging to an individual's self-esteem or social standing, Martins first conducted a content analysis of the television shows children watch the most, coding them for social aggression that was either direct (e.g. ignoring someone in the room) or indirect (e.g., rumor spreading, backstabbing). This allowed Martins to generate a list of 6 TV shows high in social aggression, 6 high in physical aggression, and 6 filler shows that contained little aggression at all. Students from two schools were then asked in personal interviews to report how often they watched each of the shows. They were also asked a series of questions designed to address how often they used social and physical aggression in their personal interactions. For example, children were asked "How often do you make mean faces at another kid to hurt their feelings?" and "How often do you push or shove another kid at school?"
Results show a positive relationship between the likelihood of watching socially-aggressive television shows and the use of social aggression in school, but only for girls and not for boys. Martins discusses several possible reasons for this finding, including data from the survey suggesting that girls may be more attracted to watching television programming that contains examples of social aggression.
The abstract of the journal article, which Martins wrote with Barbara J. Wilson of University of Illinois, can be found here.