Aggressive Behavior

Part of the series The Plenum Series in Social/Clinical Psychology pp 153-186

Long-Term Effects of Repeated Exposure to Media Violence in Childhood

  • L. Rowell HuesmannAffiliated withResearch Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
  • , Laurie S. MillerAffiliated withDepartment of Child Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons

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About a quarter of a century ago, a young American radical, Stokely Carmichael, commented that violence was as American as apple pie! At least in terms of prevalence, nothing much seems to have changed since that time. The frequency of violence directed by one human being at another was appallingly high then and is appallingly high now. The United States is not the most violent society in the world. That distinction belongs to some of the less developed countries ravaged by wars, terrorism, drug battles, and general lawlessness. Nor is violence as endemic now as it has been during many of the last 20 centuries. Among the highly developed Western societies, however, the United States has scored at the top for the past several decades on most objective measures of interpersonal violence. For example, homicides in the United States rose from an overall rate of about 5 per 100,000 to 10 per 100,000 between World War II and the 1980s and have remained at about that level. Of course, the rate in some inner-city ghettos may be 10 times this rate (100/100,000) and the rate for certain age cohorts may be 3 times this rate (e.g., 30/100,000 for males 18 to 24). In comparison, no other highly developed Western society has a rate much above 3 per 100,000 and most are below 1 per 100,000. Rates at these levels are cause enough for concern and also reflect increases since World War II, but the sustained rates in the United States are a national tragedy. In some urban areas of the United States the most common cause of death for young males is now homicide.