Pow! Boom! Kablam! Effects of Viewing Superhero Programs on Aggressive, Prosocial, and Defending Behaviors in Preschool Children

Abstract

Many schools and parents try to motivate children to become defenders of victimized peers. Defending behavior is common in the media (particularly in superhero programs); however, no study has examined the effect of media on defending behavior. The aim of the study was to examine longitudinal associations between superhero engagement and a variety of aggressive, prosocial, and defending behaviors in preschool children. Participants consisted of 240 preschoolers (49% male) and their parents who reported on child media use and outcomes at 2 different time points. Preschooler’s engagement with superheroes was related to increased physical and relational aggression 1 year later. Engagement with superheroes was not related to prosocial or defending behaviors. Implications of the results are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the Women’s Research Initiative at BYU for financially supporting this project. We would also like to thank all the student research assistants for their help throughout the project.

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Correspondence to Sarah M. Coyne.

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Coyne, S.M., Stockdale, L., Linder, J.R. et al. Pow! Boom! Kablam! Effects of Viewing Superhero Programs on Aggressive, Prosocial, and Defending Behaviors in Preschool Children. J Abnorm Child Psychol 45, 1523–1535 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-016-0253-6

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Keywords

  • Media
  • Superheroes
  • Physical aggression
  • Relational aggression
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Defending behaviors
  • Bullying