How do children learn aggressive behaviour?
It is believed that children can be greatly influenced by others behaviour and various types of entertainment which they watch or play. This is called ‘social learning’, a theory in which learning is based on observing and imitating others behaviour. It is said that early child hood experience can have strong impact on the child’s personality. By witnessing violence in person, games, television and film this direct viewing of violent material can lead the child to become more tolerant to violence, change their view towards violence and are more likely to behave in more violent ways themselves.
Albert Bandura is a psychologist best known for his interest in different forms of learning such as social learning. Bandura and his colleagues conducted an experiment in the early 1960’s called the Bobo doll studies, the aim of the experiment was to explore the extent in which children would imitate aggressive behaviour that they witnessed by another person, referred to as a model. Each child would witness a model acting out aggressively to a Bobo doll, giving the experiment the name ‘The Bobo doll studies’.
"Albert Bandura argued that aggression in children is influenced by the reinforcement of family members, the media, and the environment"
(Bandura, 1976: pp. 206-208).
The Experiment Bandura and his colleges began the experiment with ninety-six children, making an equal number of boys and girls. The children where then split into four different groups having a number of twenty four children in each group, each group being exposed to different models or no model at all. Group 1 witnessed a live model behaving aggressively towards the Bobo doll. Group 2 observed a film of a live model behaving aggressively towards the Bobo doll. Group 3 observed a film of a ‘fantasy’ model behaving aggressively towards the Bobo doll. Group 4 did not observe any aggressive behaviour towards the Bobo doll.
Bandura and his colleagues put into account that if the child was a male or female also if the model they witnessed carry out the aggressive acts was male or female. Bandura also took into account if the model was a live, film or animated model, this being relevant to the debate if sources of entertainment can affect children’s behaviour.
Each child from each group would be taken into three separate rooms. The first room the children would witness the model carry out aggressive acts on the bobo doll (except for group 4). The child would witness the model for ten minutes punch, throw, sit on, hit with a mallet, throw and kick the Bobo doll while saying “sock him in the nose”, “hit him down”, “throw him in the air”, “kick him”, “pow”. The children would then be led into room two where there were lots of toys, but was told they weren’t allowed to play with the toys. This room was done to agitate anger and frustrate the children. In the third room there where some toys again non-aggressive toys; tea set, crayons and paper, doll, toy bear, cars, trucks and toy farm animals. The more aggressive toys being the Bobo doll,