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How modelling aggression has contributed to our understanding of children's behaviour

Updated on February 6, 2013
Bobo Doll
Bobo Doll | Source

In the 1960's Albert Bandura and his colleagues were interested in how observing aggressive behaviour could influence children and whether seeing other people behaving in an aggressive way would teach children to be aggressive as well. They set up an experiment where children where divided into boys and girls and then further divided into four groups. The groups where then exposed to an adult behaving aggressively towards a toy doll. Each set of groups (one boys and one girls) saw variations in aggressive behaviour. Some watched a person live and some a film. Male and female models where used. The variations where to see if the way the violence was displayed made any difference to how the children reacted to it. One group of boys and one of girls saw no aggressive behaviours and where the control group. This was to see how aggressive children maybe with no influences.

Video Footage of the Bobo Doll Experiments

The findings of the experiment showed that the children who witness the adults being aggressive towards the toy doll where more likely to behave aggressively toward it themselves. The study found that boys behaved more aggressively than girls overall and where more effected by the gender of the aggressive adult than the girls were. Looking at the results of the experiments carried out by Bandura and colleagues it seems as though experiencing violent behaviour causes children to behave violently themselves. The experiment clearly shows that children learn from and will copy other people's behaviours. This type of learning is known as social learning.

It is important to be careful about assuming anything about the results of studies like this. The children's violent behaviour was observed and scored shortly after observing the violent adult. It could be that they were effected by seeing the aggression but that the effects are short lived and so not too big a problem. Another point that also wasn't looked at by the study was that when children or indeed people in general are violent towards inanimate objects it may actually reduce their aggression towards other people.

It is also worth considering if and how much the children where effected by being in a strange environment, with strange adults behaving in ways they probably weren't used to seeing adults behave. The children may of felt that it was ok to copy the adults behaviour in this given situation or even that it was expected of them to do so but would not normally behave that way.

Although observing adults behaving aggressively appeared to make the children behave aggressively in Bandura's experiments it doesn't necessarily mean that it is true of real life experiences. The two seem to be associated but the experiment was unable to elaborate and generalise the findings into real life and say to what extent it maybe true or if the effects where permanent. Many other factors may of influenced the children such as the unfamiliar environment, each child's upbringing and how they interpreted the experiment experience. Many people blame violence in the media and children's games for making children behave violently but there are many more factors that need to be considered. It also may not be that seeing lots of violence makes children more aggressive, it could be that already aggressive natured child seek out violent media because they are attracted to it already.

Albert Bandura
Albert Bandura | Source

Albert Bandura - Brief Bio

Born - December 4, 1925

Nationality - Ukrainian Canadian/American

Fields - Psychology, Philosophy of Action

Known for - social cognitive theory, self-efficacy, social learning theory, Bobo doll experiment, human agency, Reciprocal determinism

Influenced by - Robert Sears, Clark Hull, Kenneth Spence, Arthur Benton. Neal Miller

Influenced - cognitive psychology, social psychology

© 2012 Claire


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    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      Thank you. I totally agree, children are so receptive and it can be surprising what they do take in that we do not think of. I think that most likely it is a combination of nature and nurture combined with a persons individual personality. Some people can experience terrible violence and yet not become violent themselves because they do not believe it is the correct way to behave and yet some show violent and aggressive behaviour with very little or milder experience. Also the importance of the person modelling the violent behaviour should be considered, especially in children. I see many children who grow up watching so many violent cartoons and want to be like the characters they see as their heroes. If there is no one in their lives to correct the behaviours and explain that cartoons are pretend and that we should not act that way for real then they are not going to learn any different.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 5 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Voted up and all that good stuff! I think the important take-away here is children are extremely receptive to their surroundings and we never know what they will pick up. You are sort of asking the nature versus nurture problem- whether some are atracted to violence or seeing violence makes them attracted to it.

    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      Thank you :)