Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S.A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-582.
Aggression is all around modern society. We witness it in television, video games, news, cinema, etc. The research article by Bandura, Ross & Ross makes it near conclusive that children learn and replicate the behaviours of their models (meaning adults). The two main classes of adult behaviour exposed to children in the experiments are ‘aggressive’ and ‘non-aggressive’. And depending on the type of exposure the children imbibe and replicate the same type of behaviour when placed in a similar setting. So, witnessing parents perform violent actions (even if against toys) leads to children internalizing that behaviour as acceptable. Likewise witnessing parents conduct themselves in a non-violent manner leads to reinforcement of this type of behaviour. There is also a correlate on gender lines, whereby, male children assimilate the actions of male models (usually fathers). This is usually more pronounced in aggressive behaviour, which is perceived as typical for males. In this context parents should remember the proverb “practice what you preach”, for their words will count for little if their actions contradict them. The best way for parents to raise psychologically healthy children is by serving as fitting role models for them. The studies by Bandura and team have implications for producers of media content, for violent imagery and verbal output will adversely affect the behaviour of viewers – irrespective of their age. The findings by Bandura and team should thus be read carefully by policy makers, regulators and private media proprietors. It is through such a concerted effort that our society will become more harmonious.