Media and Juvenile Delinquency

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Television in the United States has been used as a babysitting tool for many busy working and non-working parents perhaps because it's a convenient and inexpensive tool. This paper will examine Social Learning Theory and if juveniles learn delinquent behavior through the media. To address this issue, I have reviewed literature on the Social Learning theory and various studies that were conducted on juvenile delinquents and effects of television by Ronald L. Akers and Robert L. Burgess. Social Learning Theory posits that people can and, do learn behaviors from sources such as television, books, and electronic entertainment. To investigate these issues, I searched books and peer-reviewed journals using keywords such as: juvenile delinquency, violence, television programming, media, youth crime, Ronald Akers, Robert Burgess, social learning theory. My goal with this research paper is to learn about youth and whether they do learn deviant behavior from watching television and then in turn become juvenile delinquents. I hypothesize that the social learning theory does contribute to juvenile delinquency.

Social Learning Theory

Based on the Social Learning theory Ronald L. Akers (1998) state, The probability that persons will engage in criminal and deviant behavior is increased and the probability of their conforming to the norm is decreased when they (1) differentially associate with others who commit criminal behavior and espouse definitions favorable to it, (2) are relatively more exposed in-person or symbolically to salient criminal/deviant models, (3)define it as desirable or justified in a situation discriminative for the behavior, (4) and have received in the past and anticipate in the current or future situation relatively greater reward than punishment for the behavior. The conceptualization of social learning theory embodies within it four fundamental premises that include differential association, definitions, differential reinforcement and imitation (Akers and Sellers, 2004). Donald Sutherland first developed Differential Association theory in 1939 then later revisited his theory in 1947. Sutherland's version has nine core statements for why he believed individuals come to commit crimes. Nineteen years later, in 1966 Ronald L. Akers and Robert R. Burgess developed a theory called Social Learning theory which was almost identical to the Differential Association theory.

The differences between Donald Sutherland's Differential Association

Theory and Social Learning Theory of Ronald L. Akers and Robert L. Burgess are listed in the table below. Differential Association Theory According to Sutherland's Differential Association theory, when a person associates more with such groups than with others, that person learns deviant behavior. For example, a child who grows up among professional thieves is more likely to learn to steal; such a person might learn not only to regard stealing as acceptable, but also specific techniques for stealing. In this view, younger people are more likely to learn deviance than older people. Social Leaning Theory Ronald L. Akers and Robert L. Burgess propose that people can and actually do learn from other sources besides communication. Examples are books, T.V. (and more contemporarily), video games and electronic entertainment. They also propose that another factor plays into the learning of criminal behavior: positive and negative reinforcement As Siegel (1989:188) says, social process theories hold that criminality is a function of individual socialization of people's interactions with various organizations, institutions, and processes in society; people in all walks of life have the potential to become criminals if they maintain destructive social relationships.

Media violence and aggression

It is sometimes argued the showing violence with its negative consequences may inhibit people from acting violently, but television violence is rewarded at least as often as it is punished. The good guys are as violent as the bad guys, and they often break the law, as well, in the service of supposedly good ends (Lange, Baker & Ball 1969). The mass media are seen as a source of violence. Exposure to violence in the media is believed to be related to some persons engaging in hostile and aggressive acts. The process of socialization leads people, especially children to accept the notion that violence is commonplace and normal. Research on the impact of the media tends to support this belief. The evidence that we do have indicates that films and television are profoundly educative for their viewers, teaching them that the world is a violent and untrustworthy place, and demonstrating for them a variety of violent techniques for coping with this hostile environment. Whether this message is beamed as fact or fiction, it is accepted by young children. They incorporate in their own behavior patterns all the sequences of adult behavior they observe on television. (Lange, Baker, and Ball 1969, 282).

Research found that children who are younger than 6 years old are spending an average of 2 hours on watching television, DVD/videos, using computer and playing video games (Christakis, Ebel, Rivara, & Zimmerman, 2004). Children between the ages of 8 and 18 are reported to spend more than 40 hours per week in using computers, video games and television according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Study (2010). General Aggression Model (GAM) The General Aggression Model (GAM) is a comprehensive, integrative, framework for understanding aggression. It considers the role of social, cognitive, personality, developmental, and biological factors on aggression. Proximate processes of GAM detail how person and situation factors influence cognitions, feelings, and arousal, which in turn affect appraisal and decision processes, which in turn influence aggressive or nonaggressive behavioral outcomes. Each cycle of the proximate processes serves as a learning trial that affects the development and accessibility of aggressive knowledge structures. Distal processes of GAM detail how biological and persistent environmental factors can influence personality through changes in knowledge structures. GAM has been applied to understand aggression in many contexts including media violence effects, domestic violence, intergroup violence, temperature effects, pain effects, and the effects of global climate change.

Recently, researches have endorsed this model in the study of the impact of media violence and aggressive behavior. The model was developed based on the model of social information processing, Bandura's theory of social learning (1973) the script theory (Huesmann & Miller, 1994), the excitation transfer model of Zillmann (1983, in Anderson & Bushman, 2002), and the cognitive neo-associationist model of Berkowitz (1994). According to Anderson and Bushman (2002), individuals who expose to media violence via passive modelling have greater risk to engage in aggressive behavior regardless of personality, family environment, genetics, or other biological contributions. Literature Review The Influence of Media Violence on Youth by Anderson, C. A., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Rowell Huesmann, L., Johnson, J. D., Linz, D., Wartella, E. (2003). This paper examines media violence as one part of the complex influences on the behavior of children and youth. It also suggests that multilayered solutions are needed to be addressed of exposure to media violence. They are needed to address the problem of aggressive and violent behavior in modern society. Media-violence exposure is not the only risk factor underlying aggression and violence, however, it may be the least expensive risk factor to change. There is little to no cost to choose nonviolent forms of entertainment for oneself or one's children. Unfortunately, the disturbing reality is that violent media are coming into the home and calling for active involvement of even the youngest children and usually with little to no parental supervision.

Film violence and young offenders. Aggression and Violent Behavior by Pennell, A. E., & Browne, K. D. (1999). The article states that for over the past three years the debate has been with violence in the media has a damaging impact on its audience and has once again come to the forefront of people's minds. This debate had already been highlighted in the UK with the murder of James Bulger by two 10-year-old boys. The violent film Child's Play 3 and Juice were implicated in the Bulger case. In another instance the murder of Suzanne Capper, and the kicking death of Les Read (The Guardian, November 27 and December 22, 1993). The similarity between certain aspects of these crimes, and parts of the video films, made people believe that these violent films had caused individuals concerned to commit terrible crimes. The American Psychological Association claims that the average American child or teen- age views 10,000 murders, rapes, and aggravated assaults per year on television alone (Huston et al., 1992). The article concluded with stating that perhaps individual differences may have an influence on viewing behavior and its effects. It was also pointed out that it is important to determine what importance each scene has to an individual and the meaning they ascribe to it and only then can we begin to understand how violent film and television influences violent behavior and who is most susceptible to such an influence. Children and Television News Kandemir-Ozdinc, N., & Erdur-Baker, O. (2013)

The study examined whether children perceive television news as real and whether mothers are aware of their children's television news induces fears. The study found that girls mostly experience difficulty sleeping and the boys mostly behave in a frustrated manner as a reaction to the news which shows that gender was related with reactions of children in that boys reacted actively (acting irritated and nervous) and girls reactions were passive (difficulty sleeping and nightmares).

In conclusion, the study states behavioral manifestations of children as a reaction to TV news content was listed by Smith and Moyer-Guse (2006) as difficulty sleeping, nightmares, acting nervous, crying, acting withdrawn, acting aggressive, acting irritable, a desire to sleep with a parent, nail biting, difficulty eating, an upset stomach, obsessive thoughts about the war, obsessive discussions about the war, and drawing pictures about the war. Research question What is the role that television/media play as one of the many contributing factors of juvenile delinquency? Children are exposed to many types of violence and recent cases show that children are mimicking the behaviors of television shows or movies. A current headline reads, Slender Man attack: Girl who stabbed classmate 19 times on orders of fictional character locked up for 40 years. Media violence is one of many factors that have greater potential in leading to children aggression. Data and Methodology The purpose of this research is to determine the roles media and television play in the area of juvenile delinquency. It will take several approaches to research the question about the effects media and television have on children. First, is to have a survey available for parents to take. Second approach is to have a longitudinal study of several families with children and follow these particular families and their television/media habits until the child is (18) eighteen years old and monitor whether there is juvenile delinquency during the time being monitored.

The parent survey for a study would include questions such as how long does your child watch television and what type of programs are being watched? Are they supervised? Who picks the particular program being watched? Educational level as well as income information would be gathered. A longitudinal study would be conducted on parents and children starting at age 6 and continue until the child's 18th birthday. The youth would be followed to see what affects television, video games were had on the child. Did the child become a delinquent? What programs were watched? How long was television watched? The reports can be either self-reports or reports made by peers, parents, or teachers. The quantitative and qualitative data for this study would be gathered from children, 8-18 years old as well as their parents. The participants would be recruited by using convenient and purposive sampling methods. This research will contribute to determining the roles the media and television play in the area of juvenile delinquency. Conclusion The bottom line is that there are many factors – at home, at school, and in the community, which can increase or decrease the likelihood that a youth will become violent. Violence in the media is one of them and the social learning theory is one of the many theories used as an explanation for juvenile delinquency. Former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson has observed: All television is educational. The only question is, what is it teaching?

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Media and Juvenile Delinquency. (2019, Dec 31). Retrieved March 3, 2024 , from

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