Just last month, a 14-year old student from SuccessTech Academy in Cleveland, Ohio shot four people before turning the gun on himself (Leonard). Fortunately, no one other than the gunman died in the incident. Although this would not be the first case of juvenile school shooting in history, it still leaves us with questions about what could prompt a person to exhibit such violence at a young age. One possible cause is violence in television. When a child sees a violent act on television, he would then tend to copy this violent act.
This is called “Observational Learning” and is primarily based on the work of the renowned psychologist Albert Bandura. Bandura performed a series of experiments known as the “Bobo Doll” studies which showed that children ages 3 to 6 changed their behavior simply by watching others (Huitt). The 1999 U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee Staff Report supports this as it says that television alone is responsible for 10% of youth violence (qtd. in Violence in the Media). 10% may not seem like a big number but considering that this is only for television alone, it is a percentage worthy of consideration.
Other than television shows, violence in video games is also to be considered. In 2003, around 60% of the American population play video games regularly and more than 80% of the video games in the market contain some form of violence or another (Gale). This shows that a large portion of the American population is exposed to violence in video games and children may well just imitate what they see in these video games. In fact, video games are being used by the U. S. military to aid in the training of soldiers for combat (Gale).
If adult soldiers can be influenced by video games, then most likely, children can be influenced too. As Bandura showed in the “Bobo Doll” studies, children are likely to imitate what they see. Despite the sheer amount of violence in the media, juvenile violence cannot be attributed to that alone. Another factor could be the brain chemistry of a person. In other words, the tendency towards violent behavior may actually be influenced by ones genes and/or diet. William J. Walsh, a scientist, conducted a study that involved 24 pairs of brothers, one average and one violent.
His research showed that there were patterns in the brain chemistry of the violent brother which could not be found in the average brother (Bad brain chemistry). This means that violence could be said to be in the nature of a person. Also, this means that violent tendencies could be influenced by a one’s diet since this the nutrient intake of a person affects his brain chemistry. In fact, in a study conducted at the Aylesbury jail in U. K. , the offenses committed by the prisoners dropped by 37% when they were fed with all the essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids (Lawrence).
Other scientific researches show that there is a great correlation between malnutrition and violent behavior in children (Dell’Orfano). Exposure to violence in the media coupled with bad brain chemistry will then certainly increase the risk of a kid committing violent acts including killing. Apart from the two aforementioned causes, another factor that may further encourage violent behavior in children is a so-called “culture of violence” among today’s youth. This culture is exemplified by the existence of gangs wherein violence is advocated. Studies show that the street gangs usually recruit members at around 11-15 years of age.
Activities of gangs include criminal acts of violence, threats, and anti-social behavior (Sandoval). These gangs uplift violence—here, violence is rewarded by, perhaps, a sense of belongingness and power. This can then be related to B. F. Skinner’s reinforcement theory. According to Skinner, behavior is a function of its consequences (Dunn). That is, a person will tend to keep on doing something if he is rewarded for it and will tend to stop if he is punished. In the existence of a “culture of violence” wherein violent acts are rewarded, children will tend to commit acts of violence including killing.