- NEW YORK - Whether
children will engage in violent behavior appears to depend primarily on
several factors, including their exposure to violence, television viewing
and a lack of parental oversight, according to the results of a study published
in the October issue of Pediatrics.
- Lead author Dr. Mark Singer, of Case Western Reserve
University in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleagues surveyed 2,245 Ohio public
school youngsters ranging in age from 7 to 15 during the 1995 - 1996 academic
year, representing "one of the largest investigations to date on the
relationship between violence exposure and violent behaviors" in children.
- Children from three areas were included in the study
" the inner city, a relatively small urban area, and a rural locale.
The authors found "high rates of exposure to violence and violent
behaviors among elementary and middle school children" in all sites.
- Along with detailed queries about exposure to violence
and engaging in violent behavior, the survey included questions about how
closely parents monitor their children's whereabouts and choice of friends.
In addition, information was obtained about television viewing habits.
More than 20% of respondents claimed to view over 6 hours of television
- Upon statistical analysis of the children's responses,
Singer and colleagues determined that "violence exposure variables
were powerful contributors to the prediction of violent behavior"
as was the "parental monitoring score." That is, children who
lacked close monitoring by parents "reported significantly higher
levels of violent behavior" than did more carefully monitored youngsters.
- "Television-viewing habits made modest yet statistically
significant contributions to the... violent behavior scores," the
- Among the study findings was that "across geographic
sites and genders, children's reports of being threatened or slappedhitpunched
at home were quite uniform." Sexual abuse was reported by more girls
than boys, while "rates of witnessing violence were high for both
genders," although greater at school than at home, according to the
report. The investigators note that inner-city students reported witnessing
"the highest percentages of... more serious forms of violence (i.e.,
beatings, knife attacksstabbings, and shootings)."
- Regarding the survey participants' own violent behaviors,
Singer and colleagues found that "almost without exception, boys reported
higher rates of violence towards others than did girls," though both
sexes engage in these behaviors.
- For the authors, the implications of their findings are
clear: "our study... illustrates the strength of violence exposure
and the importance of parental monitoring and television viewing as contributors
to children's risk for engaging in violence."
- They recommend that medical professionals "(screen)
for violence exposure... (to identify) children who are at high risk of
exhibiting violent behaviors and (provide) them with appropriate referrals
to address these potential behaviors as well as to minimize (the children's)
future exposure to violence."