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Crime File: TV and Violence

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This video cassette, number 21 in the Crime File series, portrays a three-member panel of researchers describing and critiquing their research pertinent to the effects of media (primarily television) portrayals of violence on the aggressive behavior of viewers.
Panelist David Phillips of the University of California at San Diego describes his research that examined the effect on homicide and suicide rates of the heavily publicized events of Marilyn Monroe's suicide, John F. Kennedy's assassination, and heavyweight boxing matches. He reports finding that suicides occurred at an abnormal rate in the 4 days after Marilyn Monroe's suicide; robberies but not homicides were abnormally high in the few days after President Kennedy's killing; and homicides were abnormally high within the few days after heavily publicized boxing events. Although the significance of the abnormally high robbery rate after the Kennedy death is unexplained, the other findings are believed to show publicized violent events spawn a brief period of imitative violence. Panelist L. Rowell Huesmann of the University of Illinois describes his longitudinal panel study that examined the effects of violent television programming on aggression in a sample examined first when they were in the third grade and then monitored periodically over the next 22 years. He reports that children who viewed violent television programs tended to be more aggressive throughout the study period, often to the extent of committing violent crimes as adults. Panelist Ronald Milavsky, Vice President of NBC News and Social Research, reports on his research similar to Huesmann's over a 3-year period. He reports that controlling for various variables left television violence having only an insignificant effect on the aggression of viewers, and it could not be determined whether prior aggressive tendencies were present even in these cases. All the panelists advise the need for more replicative studies. The panelists also briefly discuss policy approaches should research conclusively show adverse effects from exposure to media portrayals of violence.

Date Published: January 1, 1984