Research: Mass Media and Aggression in Early and Middle Adolscence

Chapter 1


In recent years the excessive use of mass media has become very common that has let to both positive and negative outcomes. Mass media is a type of communication that is developed by some experts for the use of common people. It is the way of communication by which message can pass from one person to another and from one place to another (Coleman, 2002).

Media is one of the most widely known and esteemed change in social environment. Radio, television, movies, videos, video games, and computer networks have assumed to play a central roles in our new environment to affect our behaviors.

It is used by all age groups whether children or adults of both gender. With the increasing trend of violence in our society the social scientist are trying to find out the root causes of changeable behaviors of adolescent. Each in positive and negative manner, the mass media is playing its role in values, beliefs, and behaviors (Galician, 2004).

The results of positive element exposure of the mass media will also have definitely strengthens the positive behavior in adolescent as prosocial behavior increases (Newhagen, 1999). Studies evidence has collected over many years that exposure to violence on television and in video games increases the risk of violent behaviors in adolescent in their practical life.

As they are in growing age, they learn a lot from their surroundings. So, when adolescent get no other alternate activities they start to watch violent programs on media that disturb their learning age and growth. In this way they start to use verbal and physical aggression, they started to adopt aggressive behaviors (Lorimer, 1994).

Mass media

Media is media that is designed for large public. Mass media sets to reach the entire population of a country. In its opposite local media tries to cover small population and small areas, focusing on area’s related news of interest. While specialty media is designed for demographic groups (Riesman et all, 1950).

The term mass media was evolved in the 1920’s with the momentous change in nationwide radio networks, newspaper circulation and magazines. These kind of mass media were also present before it became more popular. It consists of various resources that are used to convey messages from one place to another place. These resources are television, radio, computers, newspapers, and internet (Smith, 2011).

Now a days sociologists are interested to see the effect of mass media on people’s beliefs, values and their perception. Especially they are interested to see its effects in young and school going children. Some programs for adolescent have very negative effects on their mental growth like watching violent movies, playing fighting games. They mostly learn act of violence, aggression from them and incorporate it into their daily routine life (Splichal, 2006).

Theories of mass media

There are a lot of theories that support that the media has got a lot of importance in modern age. Some media theories are in the favor of the publicity, policies of owners. Some theories are related with current issues and changing trends in society. The brief types of mass media theories are discussed in following.

Agenda setting theory

 In agenda setting theory the public awareness plays a key role. This theory describes the positive side of media in telling them what is actually important. As in agenda setting media does not put anything on air until hey filter and shape it. They actually want to show people those things on which people want to concentrate.

For now a days as parents are not too much succeed in giving their children right activities and alternates of television, video games etc. they are focusing on watching violent films, cartoons and playing video games, that provokes aggression in them. And that’s why these types of programs become the first preference of media holders because parents and children want to watch these types of programs (as cited in Finnegan, 1997).

Cultivation theory.

In cultivation theory, it states that television is responsible for shaping and strengthen the concept about social reality. These differences occur in the difference between heavy viewers and lighter viewers.

Those people whose are heavy viewers are more influenced by the reality that is shaped by television while those who are light viewers they have more sources of information other than television. Heavy viewers relate more experiences in their real life to the television (as cited in Littlejohn, 1999).

Priming theory. In this theory the media provides the audience that what will be going on the show. It simply tells the audience about the content and about that what will the program look like. Priming refers to tell the people whether thing is good or bad or whether the issue is communicated effectively. People can get idea by just looking and reading the context that how will be the program in future.


Different types of media

There are different types of mass media and it is totally choice of a user that what type he want to use. For example in print media newspapers, magazines, booklets and brochures, press release, house magazines and books are included. In electronic media television, radio, new agenda media, mobile phones, computers and internet are included (Manohar, 2012).

Strengthens of mass media

It has the advantage to convey the information in few seconds from anywhere in the world to the other part of the world. Without the media most people know nothing about what is happening in their neighborhood. As there are more than one sources of information, one can collect information and advance techniques more than one source and compare them.

Media has provided children, students with such a quick access to any information that their elders take time to go to library and answering them about that question. Media has provided the extreme activities for students, children to send their leisure time with playing games, watching cartoons, movies, dramas on television, internet, computers and mobile phones.

Now a days everyone is seems to be confident with the extreme progress in technology and mass media and usage of it with according to one’s own preference and choice. As children and adolescent are getting more advanced, they would like to take decisions for themselves and choosing the channel what they want to see. (Miser, 2016).

Weaknesses of mass media

Media has also some weaknesses in its information conveying ability. Such as the some news promotes aggression in people like terrorist attack, media convey such kind of news in seconds. Watching television and playing video games has become the top priorities for students and adolescent.

They want to spend most of their time in these kind of activates that has no fruitful effects. These activities has vanished their interest in sports and games (Pilkington, 2013). One cannot deny the power of the mass media. Mass media is a source which can provide such information that may influenced someone’s actions and decisions. Nevertheless, one can permit it to disrupt lives seriously or one can use it to improve the quality of lives.

However, to make the choice, it is needed that mass media theories that explain the role and impact of mass media in lives and in the humanity as a whole.  Media are typically intended to address specific problems and issues brought about by the proliferation of mass media in the society (Jenson, 2002).


According to operational definition of aggression. Aggression is a tendency to go forward or approach an object (Bender, 1948).) It is described as the will to ensure and to test our capacity to deal with external forces; which may or may not involve hostility (Allen, 1948). For Lois Murphy (1963) “aggression may range all the way from hostility to the vigor with which either constructive or destructive acts are carried out”. So. Aggression is a form of physical or verbal behavior leading to self-acceptance.

It is often angry and destructive and sometimes to be injurious, physically or emotionally, and aimed at domination of one person by another. It may arise from innate drives or can be due to a response to frustration, and may be manifested by overt attacking and destructive behavior, by covert attitudes of hostility and obstructionism, or by a healthy self-expressive drive to mastery (Saunders, 2003).

A domineering, forceful, or assaultive verbal or physical action intended to hurt another animal or person; the verbal or motor behavioral expression of the effects of anger, hostility, or rage (Farlex, 2012). Social psychologists define aggression as behavior that is intended to harm another individual who does not wish to be harmed (Baron and Richardson, 1994).

Origins of aggression

A popular evolutionary explanation of aggression is best within view. According to this view survival of the fittest has bred aggression in human beings. It is thus human nature to be aggressive. Modern evolutionary psychology has more sophisticated view.

This view states that human nature has includes a lot of psychological mechanisms and motives. Men are generally more physically and verbally aggressive than women. Aggression is just one technique among many others that human uses as they strive for mastery of material sources as well as respect from others.

Types of aggression

There are different types of aggression. Social psychologists agree that aggression can be verbal as well as physical. Physical aggression is aggression that involves harming others physically—for example hitting, kicking, stabbing, or shooting them. Nonphysical aggression is aggression that does not involve physical harm. Nonphysical aggression includes verbal aggression like yelling, screaming, swearing, and name calling (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995).

Anger is an intense emotional response. It is a normal emotion that involves a strong uncomfortable and emotional response. Often it indicates when one’s personal boundaries are violated (Sheila,2006).

Hostility is defined as form of emotionally charged angry behavior. In everyday speech it is more commonly used as a synonym for anger and aggression. If anger is an emotion and aggression is a response, hostility, perhaps the most socially damaging of anger’s products, is a negative way of looking at the world.

The hostile person constantly sees threats to his will and wellbeing that either don’t exist at all or are far less important than he assumes them to be. His angry overreactions damage every aspect of his life, from work to family and friends (Westley, 2004).

Causes of aggression

The reasons which cause aggression in children, teenagers and individuals are the factors that causes stress and then these stressors trigger aggressive behavior and do not represent an underlying emotional illness. There are some chances that the children and adolescents may get influence by their peers and role models whom they idealize and copy their behaviors which may include aggressive acts as well.

Sometimes organic factors are the cause of aggression for example when a child has frontal lobe damage or certain types of epilepsy he or she will show aggression. There are different psychotic disorders that may show aggression as their symptoms e.g. schizophrenia, conduct disorders, children with ADHD may represent aggressive behavior.

Mood issues are also a main reason for aggressive behavior when a person is in irritable mood they may lose their self-control and may become angry. People with aggressive behavior tend to be irritable, impulsive, and restless. Aggressive behavior can be at times intentional, that means done with a specific aim i.e. to violate social norms, and to break a relationship. Another important cause of aggression is emotional problems.

Theories of Aggression

Social learning theory of Aggression (SLT)

There are many theories on aggression but the most important theory is social learning theory. Social learning theory is originated from the work of Gabriel tared in 1912.this theory based on the concept of modeling. As modeling is a process by which one can learn by simply observing others around them. As learning is a relatively permanent change that comes from experiences this theory claims that adolescent learn aggression through observation of significance people around them.

Adolescents learn from those models who are in power or high in status, who are of same sex. Social learning theory consist on four steps 1) Attention. 2) Retention. 3) Reproduction. 4) Motivation. As attention occurs by observing and watching others. Our attention goes to those people who are important for us.

In retention cognitive process schemas form and one store information that he has observed from some model. while reproduction one wants to act like the way in which his model does. Motivation step, one wants to get inspired by his model to perform that specific kind of behavior that he has learned (Bandura, 1961).

Bandura’s experiments in favor of social learning theory verifies the strength of social learning theory by performing a famous experiment named as bobo-doll experiment. Albert bandura used forms, frequency and target to describe the social learning theory. According to Bandura most behavior, including aggression, is learned. “The specific forms that aggressive behavior takes, the frequency with which it is displayed, and the specific targets selected for attack are largely determined by social learning factors” (Bandura, 1973). This theory is also simply addressed with adolescent that they learn through by simplymodeling and observing people around them. To ensure their learning, they often try to incorporate it into their daily routine activities.

Observational learning (Modeling)

Children observe the behavior of people in their surroundings. This is illustrated during the famous Bobo doll experiment (Bandura, 1961). Individuals whose behaviour are being observed are called models. In the recent times, children are surrounded by many influential models, such as parents within the family, characters on children’s TV, friends within their peer group and teachers at school.

These models provide examples of behavior to observe and imitate, e.g. masculine and feminine, withdrawal, pro and anti-social etc. Children give attention to these people (models) and encode their behavior. And most often they may imitate (i.e. copy) the behavior they have observed. Children imitate the behaviors regardless of the fact that whether the behavior is ‘gender appropriate’ or not, but there are a number of processes that make it more likely that a child will reproduce the behavior that its society deems appropriate for its sex.

Basic process of social learning are: attention – on the model (someone who is similar in age or sex with observer or in position of power such as parent, teacher or a celebrity) depicting that behaviour. Retention: learning and retaining the behaviour of role model. Motivation: observer has some sound, valid and good reason for imitating a behaviour. Reproduction: reproducing or copying the behaviour (if the observer has confidence that they can copy a behaviour than this is known as self-efficacy) (Bandura, 1960).

General aggression model (GAM)

Anderson and colleagues (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Anderson & Bushman, 2002) model attempts to explain both the development of aggression and individual differences in vulnerability of violent media content. According to GAM both the situational (e.g playing video games and provocation) and personological (e.g. aggressive personality) variables interact with each other to affects person internal state. (Anderson & Dill, 2000, p. 773).

The internal state consist of thoughts, feelings and arousal. All three of these influence each other, and each has effect on an individual’s interpretation of an aggressive act. Once the brain’s interpretation is complete, decision-making processes start to occur.

The GAM also states that violent video games have both short term and long term effects on behavior. In the short term, the games are a situational variable, causing an increase in aggressive cognitions, feelings and arousal. The long term effects are just hypothesis, as insufficient research has been done to test its effect’s This is due to the fact that research on this topic is fairly new, so no longitudinal data is yet available.

The GAM helped to show the issue of the relationship between violence, video game, and aggression really is. Gentile et al. (2004) claim it has an additive effect. This means that those whom already are high in certain factors, mainly in antagonism, are much more at risk to become more aggressive due to influence by violent video games.

As the large amount of biological and physical changes that occur during puberty, is due to exposure to violent games should affect the processes that operate within the GAM (Kirsch, 2003 as cited in Genitle, Lynch, Linder & Walsh, 2004).

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