A well known psychologist, Albert Bandura, carried out a study in the 1960’s to investigate whether learning can take place by simply watching role models and imitating their behaviour. 96 Boys and girls aged between 3 & 6 witnessed male and female models being physically and verbally aggressive towards an inflatable doll. The researchers then observed the children's response to a small version of the doll after they had seen the aggressive role models, passive role models or no role model at all. It was found that children who witnessed the aggressive role models were more aggressive than those who hadn't. Boys were also found to be more aggressive than girls.
The results of the study demonstrate how it is possible for children’s behaviour to be influenced by what they observe others doing.
This supports the theory that children learn social behaviour, such as aggression, through watching the behaviour of other people.
As a parent, you are your child’s first and possibly most influential role model. As such, it has been suggested that parents need to monitor the extent of aggression and violence they witness in real life and the media.
How can parents make a difference?
1. Reduce exposure to media violence
The outcome of Bandura’s ( 1963) experiment reinforced his belief that observing either live or filmed displays of violence would show an increase in the number of aggressive acts subsequently displayed by a child therefore monitoring what your child watches and how much they watch would, he believed minimise the aggressive behaviour that child would display. If a child watches less television, they will see less violence. Setting family guidelines on what they are allowed to watch. Help your children select programs within your family's guidelines. Another way to control what your children watch is to tape appropriate entertainment for them to watch alone. Pre- watching a programme to check if it is suitable for them to watch would also help.
2. Change the impact of violent images that are seen.
The best way to help children deal with any violent behaviour they see is to sit and talk to them about what they see. Find out what they understand and what they don't, it is important for children to learn the difference between reality and fantasy at an early age.
Playing a game where they see that their ‘hero’ in the game gets rewarded for killing another character would be confusing for a young child. Bandura suggests that “The apparent status of the model has an effect, as well as whether or not the model was seen to be rewarded for their aggressive behaviour.” (Bandura, 1973) This sets the parents a challenge and therefore following the age related guidelines for games etc. is essential. It is important to remember that when Bandura’s experiment took place it was the 60’s and age