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Retrospective recall of early television viewing: Relations with adult aggressive behavior

Seger, Jeffrey Lane
Scope and Method of Study: The purpose of the current study was to assess the relation between past television viewing and current aggressive outcomes in young adults using a retrospective recall methodology. Participants first completed electronic questionnaires of demographic information (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status), current aggression (e.g., physical and verbal aggressive behavior, hostile attribution bias, aggressive beliefs and values, justification of violence, and gun beliefs), and socialization variables (e.g., parental discipline style and religiosity). Then, primetime network and cable TV program schedules from the years 2000, 2005, and 2010 were presented to participants who indicated how often they watched each program. After these retrospective television viewing reports were collected, programs that contained moderate to high amounts of violent content were identified and participants' ratings of those programs were summed to create TV violence exposure scores.
Findings and Conclusions: The main hypothesis, that there would be a significant positive relationship between violent content exposure scores in each target year (2000, 2005, and 2010) and participants' current aggressive behaviors and cognitions, was generally supported and extended existing longitudinal research findings concerning television and aggression. Specifically, after accounting for certain social and demographic variables known to be related to aggression and television viewing (i.e., gender, parental discipline style, and parental SES) and after accounting for general television exposure, a significant positive relationship was found between both recent and past exposure to violent television content and a variety of current self-reported aggression outcomes, including physical and verbal aggressive behavior; aggressive beliefs and values regarding violence in general, violence for self-defense, and the use of corporal punishment to discipline children; justification of violence in response to social conflict; and beliefs about gun ownership and use.