Charlton et al (2000)…

‘Children’s playground behaviour across five years of broadcast television: a naturalistic study in a remote community.’

Aim: To investigate the effect of the introduction of satellite TV on the aggressive behaviour of children.


  • conducted using 3-8 year olds on the island of St Helena who had not previously seen transmitted TV.
  • Aggressive behaviour was analysed in 1994 prior to the introduction of transmitted television in 1995. This was done through filming 256 minutes worth of free play in the school playground.
  • Behaviour was assessed again in 2000 after satellite TV became available, filming free play totalling 344 minutes.
  • A schedule of 26 playground behaviours was used, such as pushing, hitting and kicking, in addition to pro-social behaviours such as sharing and affection. The analysis of results was based on four anti-social and four pro-social behaviours in addition to gender and number of children involved.


There were no significant differences in the results. The levels of anti-social behaviour were very low on first observation and remained this way throughout various viewings. The children displayed almost twice as much pro-social than anti-social behaviour both before and after the introduction of television.


Exposure to more violent TV does not necessarily result in an increase in aggressive behaviour. Importantly, no differences were found in the behaviours most associated with TV violence- kicking, hitting and pushing.


  • May not be generalisable to all cultures; was conducted on a small island
  • Subjective- different researchers may have considered different behaviours anti/pro- social.
  • Longitudinal
  • Applicable to society- television is viewed on a regular basis so any information on its impact is valuble to parents and other professionals working with children
  • High ecological validity- not a contrived task


Bandura et al (1961)…

This is otherwise known as ‘The Bobo Doll Experiment’. They compared three groups of children aged three to six years old. The children had been assessed for aggressiveness and spread out between the groups. Two groups saw adult models who were either aggressive or non-aggressive towards a bobo doll- those who were aggressive towards it sat on it, punched it, hit it on the head with a mallet and threw it in addition to verbally abusing it. Half of the children saw a same sex model and the other half saw an opposite sex model. The third group acted as a control group and and did not see any model. After being frustrated to increase the chance of aggressive behaviour being exhibited, all children were observed through a one way mirror for twenty minutes.

Bandura et al found that children who were exposed to the aggressive model imitated their exact behaviour and were significantly more aggressive- both physically and verbally- than the control group. This effect was greater for boys than girls, although girls showed more verbal aggression.

These findings illustrate the potential risk for children exposed to anti-social models. It is easily replicated due to the fact that it is a lab experiment so it has high levels of control. If the experiment was repeated and the same results were obtained then this would make the experiment high in reliability. It is applicable to society as it can be used to demonstrate potential risks to children, however the task is contrived as in an every day atmosphere, an adult would not abuse a bobo doll, which is undoubtedly different to abusing a human. Also, we must consider the ethics of this experiment- the children were caused distress from the experiment and were unaware that they were taking part in an experiment, breaking ethical guidelines.

Social Learning Theory…

One approach which can offer a possible explanation for criminal behaviour is the learning approach. One theory from the learning approach is the social learning theory which was developed by Bandura. The social learning theory states that for social learning to take place, an individual goes through four key stages- these are attention, retention, reproduction and reinforcement. Social learning occurs when one individual observes and imitates another person (the model). For example, a young girl may watch an older girl pinch another child and try to copy her. Social learning may occur early in life, however the resulting behaviours may not be exhibited until much later- for example, a young boy may see his father hit his mother but may not reproduce this until he is much older.

Media Violence:
One aspect of the social environment which can have a huge impact on a child behaviour is the media- for example, television programmes and video games. When characters in the media- for example, characters on television, in films or on video games- use violence, they are modeling aggressive behaviour. By watching the film, the tv program or by playing the video game, the children are paying attention. If the violence shown is distinctive then this is likely to cause retention of the information. The children may be impressed or inspired by the violence used and this will motivate them to reproduce it. This is particularly true if the character on screen is rewarded for their violent actions- this is vicarious reinforcement.

Bandura (1961) conducted a study- ‘transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive role models’- which aimed to investigate whether aggression could be acquired through modeling. He found that children who were exposed to violent behaviour imitated the exact behaviour of the role model and were significantly more aggressive than children who did not receive aggressive modelling. This shows that role models do have an impact on the behaviour of children and suggests that violent behaviour will be imitated.

 There are many real life cases where the influence of violence in the media has had profound affects. An example of this is the murder of James Bulger. Venables and Thompson were two ten year old boys who abducted, tortured and murdered James Bulger. He was kicked and stamped on, had bricks thrown at him and batteries placed in his mouth, was covered in blue paint and eventually brutally killed by an iron bar which was dropped on his head. It was pointed out in court that the two ten year old boys had been watching violent films such as Childs Play Three, and that the boys imitated a scene in this where a victim was covered in blue paint. This shows that violence displayed in the media influenced the actions of Venables and Thompson.

 Another case which drew attention to the impact of violence in the media is the Columbine incident.  The two young men that committed this act of violence were said to have played numerous hours of violent video games.  Their exposure to violence is said to have been the cause since the children involved in Columbine came from secure home environments with active parental influence.  As with Michael Carneal, from Kentucky, who in 1997 shot and killed three of his classmates.  He too was also said to have been a video game fanatic.  Michael Breen an attorney in the case against Michael Carneal stated in court; “Michael Carneal clipped off nine shots in a 10-second period.  Eight of those shots were hits.  Three were head and neck shots and were kills.  That is way beyond the military standard for expert marksmanship.  This was a kid who had never fired a pistol in his life, but because of his obsession with computer games he had turned himself into an expert marksman.”

 Eron et al (1972) measured the levels of violence in TV programmes watched by seven to eight year old children and measured their aggressiveness. They found a positive correlation- the more violence watched by the child, the higher the level of aggression. This was stronger in boys than in girls. In 1986, Eron and Huesmann found that the more violence the boys had watched on television as a child, the more likely they were to be violent criminals as adults.

 A brain mechanism that may link violent computer games with aggression has been discovered by researchers in the US. The work goes some way towards demonstrating a causal link between the two – rather than a simple association.

Bruce Bartholow et al have found that people who play violent video games show diminished brain responses to images of real-life violence, such as gun attacks, but not to other emotionally disturbing pictures, such as those of dead animals, or sick children. And the reduction in response is correlated with aggressive behaviour.

 The brain activity they measured, called the P300 response, is a characteristic signal seen in an EEG (electroencephalogram) recording of brain waves as we register an image. The P300 reflects an evaluation of the emotional content of an image says Bartholow, being larger if people are surprised or disturbed by an image, or if something is novel. The team recruited 39 experienced gamers, and used questionnaires to assess the amount of violent games they played. They then showed them real-life images, mostly of neutral scenes, but interspersed with violent or negative (but non-violent) scenes, while recording EEGs.

 In subjects with the most experience of violent games, the P300 response to the violent images was smaller and delayed. “People who play a lot of violent video games didn’t see them as much different from neutral,” says Bartholow. They become desensitised. However, their responses are still normal for the non-violent negative scenes.This may not be surprising – video games have been used to desensitise soldiers to scenes of war. But when the players were subsequently given the opportunity to “punish” a fake opponent in another game, those with the greatest reduction in P300 brain responses meted out the most severe punishments. Even when the team controlled for the subjects’ natural hostility, assessed by standard questionnaires, the violent games experience and P300 response were still strongly correlated with aggressiveness. “As far as I’m aware, this is the first study to show that exposure to violent games has effects on the brain that predict aggressive behaviour,” says Bartholow. “These brain studies corroborate the many behavioural and cognitive studies showing that violent video games lead to increases in aggression.”- Craig Anderson.

 Operant conditioning may also be applicable to media violence. When a character on screen (particularly on video games) is violent towards another character, they may get a reward. If a child imitates this violent behaviour towards another child, they may also get a reward- for example, they make take another child’s sweets. This is positive reinforcement, as the child begins to associate the imitated violence with a reward and the aggressive behaviours exhibited may increase in frequency.



Within Criminal Psychology, there are several key terms which you may be asked to define in the exam:

Crime is the term referring to any actions which are deemed to be punishable by the majority and/ or those in power.

Hollin (1989) suggested three ways to define crime:

The consensus view- this is an agreement amongst members of the public about which behaviours are unacceptable and therefore punishable.

The conflict view- this suggests that criminal law exists to protect the wealthy and powerful.

The interactionist view- this view suggests that there are no absolute values of right and wrong.

Recidivism means the repeat offending of a crime for which the culprit has already been punished.

Anti-social behaviour refers to behaviours which do not necessarily break any laws, but which are viewed negatively by society. For example, aggression.

Stereotyping is expecting particular behaviours from someone based on their appearance alone. These expectations may come from media representations or pre-existing schemas. For example, expecting aggression from a teenager wearing a hoody.

Token Economy is a system of treatment based on operant conditioning which includes primary and secondary reinforcers. Offenders are treated through this programme by being rewarded with secondary reinforcers when they do not show aggressive behaviour.

Modelling is the demonstration of behaviours which are paid attention to, remembered and reproduced. This behaviour may be anti-social or aggressive and may lead to crime. The reproduction of this behaviour may also be referred to as modelling.

Eye Witness Testimony is the statement of a witness to a crime. This statement may be inaccurate due to a number of factors – for example leading questions or the misinformation effect. Stereotypes may also bias eyewitness testimony, as judgements are made of certain individuals


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