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Social channels tune in TV's effects.

The lessons youngsters learn in television's electronic school of hard knocks, careening car chases and bad-guy bashing are apt to vary from child to child, depending on the attitudes toward violence and aggressive behavir fostered by parents and peers, psychologists reported at the recent American Psychological Association meeting in Los Angeles.

In a study of Israeli Kibbutz and city children, L. Rowell Huesmann of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Riva Bachrach of the Kibbutz Child and Family Clinic in Tel Aviv find that members of both groups watch a good number of violent TV shows, most of them produced in the United States. But only among city youngsters were high levels of violence viewing related to aggressive daydreaming and aggressive behavior toward peers, says Huesmann.

In previous research, Huesmann and his co-workers found that for U.S. children, aggression, academic problems, unpopularity with peers and violence viewing feed on each other to promote violent behavior (SN: 9/22/84, p. 190). In the latest project, the investigators looked at two types of Israeli child-rearing societies, explains Huesmann. On the kibbutz, youngsters attend school in the morning, work with peers in the afternoon, eat dinner with their families and return to communal barracks where they sleep and can watch TV. The city children, much like those in the United States, attend school most of the day and have more time to watch TV, either alone or with a few others.

Over three years, the researchers interviewed and tested 74 children from a kibbutz and 112 from Tel Aviv, half from grades 1 through 3, the rest from grades 3 through 5. They also collected data from each child's parents, peers and teachers.

City boys and girls watch television far more regularly than their kibbutz counterparts, notes Huesmann, but kibbutz children are just as likely to choose violent programs as nonviolent shows. In Israel, foreign TV programs run from shoot-'em-up fare such as "Charlie's Angels" to less violent shows like "The Love Boat" and "Upstairs, Downstairs."

City children in the sample reported a greater tendency than kibbutz youngsters to regard violent programs as accurate reflections of real life and to see themselves as similar to all types of TV characters. City boys identified the most with aggressive TC characters, says Huesmann. On the kibbutz, the researchers were surprised to find that girls identified more strongly with aggressive characters than did boys.

In another surprising finding, children of more highly educated parents generally watched the most television and the most violent programs. City boys were an exception, watching fewer shows of all types as parents' education increased. "This is an unusual finding that we can't explain," says Huesmann. In the United States and several European countries, the researchers have found that childrens' TV viewing tends to decrease with more educated parents.

But all of the data support the notion, stresses Huesmann, that "social norms mediate the effects of television violence." Aggressive behavior was more acceptable in the city, where a child's popularity rating with classmates was not hampered by his or her aggression, Huesmann found. On the kibbutz, however, popularity with peers sank among the more aggressive children.
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Title Annotation:research on television violence and children
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 14, 1985
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