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Definitions Of Aggressive Behavior Psychology Essay

4628 words (19 pages) Essay in Psychology

5/12/16 Psychology Reference this

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The discussion in this chapter focused on the theory underlying the conceptual framework and studies related to the variables being studied in the current study. The discussion in this chapter covered the following elements: definition of aggression, theoretical approaches to the study of the development of aggressive behavior, emotion and emotional regulation, media violence and General Aggressive Model (GAM); and previous studies on the relationship between emotional regulation, media violence exposure and aggression among adolescent.

2.2 Definitions of Aggressive Behavior

In few hundred years back, aggression was an adaptive behavior for our ancient ancestors who lived in small group where by male will used aggression to gain access to females, food, shelter, and other resources; females will used aggression to defend their offspring and gain resources for them (Bushman & Huesmann, 2010). As humans become more social and develop, aggression toward other become less adaptive and pro-social genes become common. Aggression nowadays, generally acknowledged as maladaptive and destructive behavior. In generally, aggression is defined as behaviors that can be seen and are intended to harm others which involve at least two people (Baron, Byrne & Branscombe, 2007; Bushman & Huesmann, 2010).

According to Green (2001), in another definition of aggression defined aggression as behavior in delivery an aversive stimulus from one person to another, with intent to harm and with an expectation of causing such harm, when the other person is motivated to escape or avoid the stimulus. In fact, aggression can be distinguish between their forms (which include physical, verbal, direct, indirect, displaced, passive and active) and functions of aggression (which include reactive and proactive aggression).

Form of aggression means the way a human expressed their aggressive act, such as physical versus verbal, direct versus indirect and active versus passive (Buss1961 as cited in Bushman & Huesmann, 2010). In fact, physical forces that use to harm others, for example, fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, punching, scratching, stabbing etc. are categorized as physical aggression. On the other hand, verbal aggression is some other kind of aggression that involves the use of words to harm other such as calling, screaming or yelling.

Aggressive acts such as physical and verbal aggression can be expressed directly or indirectly. Direct form of aggression is harm that delivered directly face- to- face by the aggressor towards the victim (Richardson & Green, 1999). For instance, hitting a person in the face or screaming in a person’s face. On the other hand, indirect aggression refers to indirect ways of harming others, either physical or verbal behind the victim’s back or not in face- to- face form (Coyne et al., 2004 as cited in Glascock, 2008). For example, destroying another person’s property when he or she is not looking or spreading rumors behind a person’s back. In addition, relational aggression is one of the indirect forms of aggression whereby one person intends to manipulation and damages their peer’s social relationships (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995).

Have you ever experience of being target of yelling by your parents when you are innocent of any wrongdoing and just happens to be in wrong place at the wrong time? This form of aggression is called displaced aggression. Displaced aggression happened when the aggressor performs aggressive acts toward an innocent other (Bushman & Huesmann, 2010). For instance, a student who has been scolded by his teacher may yell at his younger brother when he gets home.

On the other hand, aggressive acts can also be discussed through their functions or motives: reactive and proactive aggression (Card & Little, 2006). Reactive aggression is described as an angry, defensive, retaliatory response to a perceived provocation such as attack and insult (Hubbard et al, 2002; Hubbard et al., 2010). Besides, proactive aggression is describes as aggressive act that is motivated by goal such as obtaining money, restoring one’s image, or restoring justice (Hubbard et al., 2002; Bushman & Huesmann, 2010).

In conclusion, the aggression can be defined in three aspects which are harmful event and consequences, intent to harm others by aggressor, and the victims is motivated to escape from being harmed (Green, 2001).

2.3 Theoretical Approaches in the Study of Aggressive Behavior

In this section, five theoretical approaches will be guiding in the study of development of aggressive behavior among adolescent which are: Frustration- aggression theory, Social Learning Theory, Social Information- Processing (SIP) Theory, Emotional Regulation and General Aggressive Model (GAM).

2.3.1 Frustration- Aggression Theory (FAT)

For many years, people believe that frustration is the most important cause of aggression. Frustration was defined as an unpleasant emotion that leads someone to perform aggressively (Bushman & Huesmann, 2010). According to frustration- aggression hypothesis proposed by Dollard et al. (1939), they believed that frustration always leads to dome form of aggression and aggression is always stems from frustration. In other words, a frustrated person always engages in some type of aggression and that all acts of aggression are results from frustration (Baron, Byrne & Branscombe, 2007).

However, frustration- aggression hypothesis stressed too much important to frustration as a determinant of human aggression was not sufficient to explain the development of aggressive acts in all human being. When frustrated, people do not always respond with aggression but show many reactions such as ranging from sadness, despair, and depression to direct attempt to overcome the source of their frustration (Baron, Byrne & Branscombe, 2007). This is clear to state that not all aggression stems from frustration. Instead, frustration is one of many factors that can lead to aggression.

2.3.2 Social Learning Theory

According to Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory, all forms of behavior can be learned through by observing the behavior of other people without directly experiencing any reinforcement (as cited in Schultz & Schultz, 2009). In other words, human behaviors’ can be learned and strengthening by observing the behavior of others, and the consequences of that behavior, rather than experiencing the reinforcement or consequences directly.

Besides, Bandura also stressed that aggressive behavior can be learned through observation (Schultz & Schultz, 2009). Through modeling, a child can learn a behavior that they have never performed or displayed previously by observing the behavior of a model and repeating the behavior themselves. In a classic Bandura’s Bobo Doll studies revealed that children tend to model the aggressive acts and acts aggressively towards the Bobo doll after watched an adult hit and kick the Bobo doll (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1963). This experiment proved that, aggressive behavior of a person can be learned through observation of aggressive acts happened from their living environment such as television and parent’s aggressive behavior (Schultz & Schultz, 2009).

In addition, Bandura (1977) believed that cognitive processes played an important role in the process of observational learning (as cited in Schultz & Schultz, 2009). This meaning that human do not automatically imitate the behaviors that other people displaying but make a deliberate, conscious decision to behave in the same way. On the other hands, people tend to make cognitive inferences from their observational learning (Bandura, 1973). These cognitive inferences will then lead to generalization on believes of certain behaviors. For instance, a child who watch violent cartoon not only will increase the likelihood to behave aggressively but may also enhance their belief on acting aggressive is acceptable.

Although human’s behavior can be learned through observation of others’ behavior but, in order to perform and maintains the behavior has learned is depends on the reward and punishment contingencies that a person receives (Green, 2001). This indicates that adolescent is more likely to behave aggressively if he or she experiences positive outcome (e.g. reward) from his aggressive acts. This can be supported by the research done by Eyal and Rubin (2003), a child will performed the aggressive acts in future when the outcome of aggressive acts was repeatedly met with positively such as social approval or pleasantries. In short, social learning approaches: principles of observational learning, learning through reinforcement and experience explain the mechanism leading to development of aggression.

2.3.3 Social Information Processing (SIP)

In recent year research, relationship between social cognitive processes and aggressive behavior has received a great deal of attention. The social information processing (SIP) model developed by Dodge (1986) was proposed to explain the aggression development. Social information processing (SIP) models focus on the real- time cognitive and emotional processes that influence how individual make sense of their social experiences and how they respond behaviorally to social stimuli (Crick & Dodge, 1994). In respond to development of aggressive behavior, SIP models proposed that one’s aggressive behavior is determined how the individual interpret and respond to the social stimuli. In order to respond appropriately to social situation, this model proposes that SIP takes place in sequential steps (Kupersmidt, Stelter, & Dodge, 2011).

SIP model (Crick & Dodge, 1994) takes places in six cognitive mechanisms: (1) encoding of internal and external cues. In this stage, social information has to be encoded accurately by gather useful information. (2) Interpretation of cues. In second stage, encoded social information will be interpreted and represented accurately. (3) Goal selection. The third stage involves goal selection which specific behavioral outcome was selected based on the interpretation from previous stage. (4) Access to or construction of possible responses. The fourth stage involves generating possible responses to the social cue. The possible response then will be evaluated in the fifth stage (5). Lastly, (6) response decision is the final stage of the SIP model where by the individual will act out the decided responses. Process through each step of the model is influences by social schemas stored in the person’s memory (De Castro, 2004). Model of social information processing following by provocation is shown in figure 1.

In the study of adolescent’s aggressive behavior, such biased and extremes in SIP responses have been found among aggressive and delinquent youth (Dodge, Coie, & Lynam, 2006 as cited in Kupersmidt, Stelter, & Dodge, 2011). SIP model suggested that aggressive adolescent in ambiguous social situation tend to selectively encode cues associated with hostile intent, attribute hostile intention, select hostile goals, generate aggressive responses, evaluate aggressive responses more favorable and feel more self- confident in performing them (Crick & Dodge, 1994). This consistent with the result study by Strickle, Krikpatrick, & Brush (2009), indicated that beliefs legitimizing aggression predicted social information processing biases and social information processing biases mediated the effects of beliefs on aggressive behavior.

SIP model has explained how a person’s cognitive process leading up to aggressive acts. However, role of emotion played in the SIP process did not incorporate in the SIP model (Lemerise & Arsenio, 2000). Some important emotional aspects of SIP are coding and labeling the emotions of others, one’s own emotional state and emotion regulation (Nas, Orobio de Castro, & Koops, 2005 as cited in Calvete & Orue, 2012). Encoding self- emotion and emotion signal from others is important because it will influence the outcome of the one’s SIP process. For example, an angry adolescent interpret that his friends is happy because of their unfortunate event will generate aggressive responses. These emotional processes can be modified by regulatory processes which called emotional regulation strategies (Calvete & Orue, 2012).

6. Enacting selected response


1. Encoding of cues

2. Interpretation of cues

3. Selecting of goals

4. Generation possible responses

5. Evaluate possible responses

Source: adapted from Green (2001, p. 51)

Figure 1: Model of social information processing following by provocation

2.3.4 Emotional Regulation

Human is a unique living organism in the world that can control their emotions through direct their emotion attention, cognitive appraisal that shape their emotional experience and the physiological consequences of emotion (Koole, 2010). The regulatory strategy which people used to manage their own emotions is referred as emotional regulation.

In general, emotion regulation was defined as the ability to adjust the intensity or duration of an unpleasant emotional reaction to a comfortable level (Gross, 1998a). During emotional regulation processes, individual is required several cognitive capacities such as attention focusing and shifting, the ability to inhibit thoughts and behaviors, planning and actively taking steps to relieve a stressful event (Thompson & Goodvin, 2007).

Gross (2001) introduced a process model of emotional regulation which explain a process on how individual control and react on their emotional. These process can be intrinsic (automatic or effortful) or extrinsic (Werner & Gross, 2010), conscious and nonconscious strategies use to increase, maintain, or decrease one or more components (feelings, behaviors, and physiological responses) of an emotional response (Gross, 1999a).

Emotional regulation model (Gross, 2001) can be distinguish between two broadest level which are antecedent- focused and response- focused emotion regulation strategies. Antecedent- focused strategies refer to thing we do before response tendencies fully activated and changed out behavior and physiological responses (Gross, 2001). Response- focused strategies refer to things we go once an emotion is already underway or after the emotion response tendencies have been generated (Gross, 2001).

According to this model, emotion may be regulated at five points in the emotional generative process which are situation selection, modification of the situation, deployment of attention, cognitive change and response modulation. The situation selection, modification of the situation, attention deployment and cognitive change are antecedent- focused emotion regulation. Meanwhile, response modulation is response- focused emotion regulation. The process of emotional regulation is illustrated in figure 2.

Emotional regulation process started with the selection of the situation. This refers to approaching or avoiding certain unpleasant thing so as to regulate emotion. For example, Mary decided to have dinner with a happy friend before the night of exam rather than going to the last- minute discussion group with other nervous friends. Once the situation is selected, it will be tailored so as to modify its emotional impact. This constitutes situation modification. For example, Mary can make clear that she rather talk something else when her friend asked about the final exam during the dinner. Third, attention deployment is used to choose an aspect of situation to focus on from many others aspects of the situation (e.g. a1- a5 in figure 2). For instance, Mary can distract herself from a conversation that has taken an upsetting turn by focusing to the music played in the restaurant.

Once the particular aspect of the situation was focused, cognitive change occurs to selecting possible meaning s which attach to the focused aspect. Cognitive change in this process can used to decrease the emotional response. For example, if the upcoming test is mentioned during the dinner, Mary might remind herself that “it’s only a midterm test,” rather than seeing the exam as a measure of her value as a human being. The personal meaning assign to the situation is crucial because it determined which experiential, behavioral, and physiological responses tendencies will be generated (Gross, 2001). Finally, response modulation refers to attempts to influence emotion response tendencies once the emotion response tendencies have been elicited.

Source: Gross (2001, p.215).

Figure 2: A process model of emotional regulation.

In recent year, cognitive processes have been shown to be of particular importance element in emotion regulation. This generates the concepts of cognitive emotional regulation. Cognitive emotional regulation can be understood as the cognitive way of handling the intake of emotionally arousing information (Thompson, 1991). Garnefski et al. (2005) suggested that cognitive processes are very important in the ability to manage or regulate and control emotion and feelings from getting overwhelmed during or after the experience of threatening and stressful events.

According to Garnefski et al., (2005), cognitive emotional regulation is related to a person’s internalizing and externalizing problems. Internalizing problems refers to problems that are directed inward (e.g. mood disordered, withdrawal, anxiety or depression) meanwhile externalizing problem refers to problems that are directed outward (e.g. disordered behavior, aggression, delinquency or hyperactivity) (Garnefski, 2005).

The current research will focused on the relationship between externalizing problems and cognitive emotional regulation whereby nine cognitive emotional regulation strategies (1) Self- blame; (2) Other- blame; (3) Rumination; (4) Catastrophizing; (5) Putting into Perspective; (6) Positive Refocusing; (7) Positive Reappraisal; (8) Acceptance; (9) Planning that a person will use to regulate and manage their emotions in response to their life stress were determined.

2.3.5 Media Violence Exposure and General Aggressive Model (GAM)

Media violence exposure studied in this research refers to violence movie exposure. The General Aggressive Model (GAM) is adopted in this study to explain the influence of violent movie on the development of aggressive behavior in adolescent.

Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between movie exposure and adverse consequences, such as increase in aggressive behavior (Huessmann & Taylor, 2006; Kuntesche et al., 2006; Md Salleh et al., 2009). There have been many explanations for why exposure of violent movie will lead to aggressive behavior. Anderson’s General Aggression Model (GAM) provides more complete account of the explanation for how violence movie exposure increases the risk of future aggressive behavior (Bushman & Anderson, 2002).

According to GAM, a chain of events that may lead to overt aggression can be initiated by two types of input variables: (1) situational factor and person factor (see figure 3). Situational factor includes frustration, insult, exposure to aggressive models either in person or violent movies, games and virtually that causes individual to experience discomfort. On the other hand, personal factor includes trait that predispose individuals toward aggression, attitude and belief about violence and type A personality (Anderson & Bushman, 2002).

According to Anderson & Bushman (2002), situational and personal variables can influence one’s state of arousal (e.g., increase physiological arousal or excitement), emotion (e.g., angry facial expression) and cognition (e.g., think of hostile thought) then lead to overt aggression. The individual will interpreted the input variables (appraisal) through their impacts on cognition, affect, and arousal state which will then decide the outcome either in thoughtful action (restraining their anger or impulsive action by behave aggressively) (Anderson & Bushman, 2002).

GAM in furthermore, suggested that repeated exposure to high level of aggression directly or from films and video games may strengthen knowledge structures relating to aggression such as belief and attitudes toward aggression, schemas, and scripts relevant to aggression. As the knowledge structure growth stronger, it will increase the aggressive behavior (Baron, Byrne & Branscombe, 2007). In short, based on GAM, adolescent who watch more violent movie then to develop violent belief, attitudes, schemas and script which have impacts on the development of aggressive behavior.

Appraisal & Decision Processes

Input variables

Situational Factors

Person Factors

Current Internal State


Cognition Arousal

Thoughtful action

Impulsive action

Source: Based on suggestions by Bushman & Anderson (2002, as cited in Baron, Byrne & Branscombe, 2007).

Figure 3: The general aggression model

2.4 Gender Differences in Aggressive Behavior

Many studies have provided strong evidence that there were gender differences in aggressive behavior (Björkqvist, 1994).According to Calvete and Orue (2012) boys tends to experience aggressive behaviors, hostile attribution and anger compared to girls when they engaged in negative situations. In contrast, study done by Nichols et al. (2006) found out that girls showed greater increases in rate of aggression and anger in a longitudinal study as compared to boys.

According to the meta- analytic review done by Card et al. (2008) on child and adolescents direct and indirect aggression, boys are enact more direct aggression such as physical and verbal aggression than girl meanwhile girls are more enact to indirect aggression such as rejection, nonverbal expression, rumor spreading or social exclusion compare to boys. Based on the biological explanation, female’s lower physical strength necessitates girls’ reliance on indirect aggression more than boys (Björkvist, 1994).

2.5 Relationship between Emotional Regulation, Movie Violence Exposure and Aggressive Behavior

This section included on past studies on the relationship between emotional regulation and movie violence exposure and adolescent’s aggressive behavior.

2.5.1 Emotional Regulation and Aggressive Behavior

Emotional regulation has been describe as processes whereby the individual control which emotion they have, how they experience and express these emotions (Gross, 2001). Numerous studies have indeed shown that the ability of emotional regulation is related to the aggressive behavior in child and adolescent (Hubbard et al., 2010; Marsee & Frick, 2007; Garnefski, et al., 2005).

Previous studies have indicated that aggressive adolescent use less effective emotion regulation methods than non- aggressive adolescent (Nas et al., 2005; Orobio de Castro et al., 2005; Silk, Stienberg, & Morris, 2003). For instance, aggressive adolescents use problem- solving strategies and distraction as a way of feeling better less frequently than non- aggressive adolescents (Calvete & Orue, 2012). In the research done by Nas et al. (2005) on 42 delinquent boys, 40 non- delinquent adolescents from lower education and 54 non- delinquent adolescents from higher education. The research findings indicated that delinquent male adolescent generate fewer adaptive emotion- regulation strategies and generate more aggressive response compared to non- delinquents adolescents. In line with this findings, Orobio de Castro et al. (2005) also found out that aggressive boy mentioned less adaptive emotional -regulation strategies and generate more aggressive responses.

Regarding to the role of emotion regulation in aggressive behavior, numerous studies has been focused on two function of aggressive behavior which are reactive and proactive. Studies have revealed that social- cognitive and emotional processes that differentially relate to reactive aggression and proactive aggression (Hubbard et al., 2010). In general, reactive aggression is described as an angry, defensive, retaliatory response to a perceived provocation such as attack and insult (Hubbard et al, 2002; Hubbard et al., 2010) meanwhile proactive aggression is describes as aggressive act that is motivated by desired goal, positive outcomes and self- confidence about the ability to enact the aggressive response Hubbard et al., 2002; Bushman & Huesmann, 2010). Regarding emotional regulation, it should not affect proactive aggressive behavior because adolescents who are proactively aggressive are not expected to experience anger when provoked (Hubbard et at., 2010). In other word, emotion regulation should be negatively related to reactive aggression, which is the type of aggression associated with anger (Hubbard et al., 2010).

Research done by Frick & Morris (2004) also supported that deficit in emotional regulation is correlated with reactive aggression. In their findings, reactive aggression children having difficulties in regulating their negative emotion when negative event evoked. Proactive aggression adolescents were reported do not experience high negative emotional compared to reactive aggressive youth (Hubbard et al., 2010). However, there are few researchers found that poor emotional regulation was also related to proactive aggression among youth (Orobio de Castro et al., 2005; Eisenberg, & Fabes, 1992).

Correspondingly, a study conducted by De Castro, Bosch, Veerman, and Koops (2003) on 54 boys aged 7 to 13 who has been referred for aggressive behavior problems was compared with a group with non- aggressive behavior problems. The findings indicated that emotional regulation was negatively correlated with reactive (r= -.43, p= .001) and proactive (r= -.43, p=.001) aggression on aggressive boys. In addition, compared with the boy with non- aggressive behaviors, aggressive boys were found to use less adaptive emotional regulation strategies to regulate their emotional.

Another study conducted by Mitrofan & Ciuluvică (2012) on the study to investigate the correlation between emotional regulation and the various types of aggression on 320 teenagers was found out that there is a significant negative relationship between aggressive. This research in line with study done by Celvete & Orue (2012) on 1125 adolescents also found out that adaptive regulation negatively predicted aggressive behavior.

Furthermore, Garnefski et al. (2005) conducted a research to examine the extent to which cognitive emotional regulation determined the internalizing (e.g. anxious, depress, thoughts problems, attention problems) and externalizing (e.g. delinquent behavior and aggressive behavior) problems. This research was conducted on 271secondary school students between ages 12 to 18 years old whereby their emotion regulation strategies were measured by the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ). The findings indicated that internalizing problems among adolescents was significantly related with cognitive emotion regulation strategies of self- blame, rumination, catastrophizing, and positive reappraisal. Focused on the externalizing among adolescents, the resulted showed that externalizing problem was significant correlated with positive refocusing (r= .12, P< .05), catastrophizing (r=.13, p<.05) and other- blame (r= .14, p<.05). In addition, only positive refocusing predicts externalizing problems. Positive refocusing such as focusing on other, joyful issues instead of what has happened refers to an event- avoiding strategy (Garnefski, et al., 2005). According to Roberton et al., (2012), over regulation of emotions through cognitive avoidance may increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior by lowering and individual's inhibitions against aggression. This is being supported by research done by Tull et al., (2007 as cited in Roberton et al., 2012) found out that the use of avoidance and suppression was able to predict aggression behavior.

As a conclusion, the above findings suggested that emotional regulation have an impact on development of adolescent’s aggressive behavior. This reveled that deficit in emotional regulation are correlated with aggression acts.

2.5.2 Movie Violence Exposure and Aggressive Behavior

In the twentieth century, mass media in our social environment has increasingly developed compared to last decade. In this new environment, television, movies, videos, and computer networks have played an important role in our daily lives. Therefore, mass media are having an enormous impact on our values, beliefs, and behavior for better or for worse (Huessmann & Taylor, 2006). Unfortunately, the consequences mass media exposure has particularly detrimental effects on viewers’ health (Huessmann & Taylor, 2006). Nowadays, much research evidence has been raised about exposure to violence on television and in video games increases the risk of violent behavior on the viewer (Huessmann & Taylor, 2006; Kuntesche et al., 2006; Md Salleh et al., 2009). Research showed that media violence exposure can contribute to both a short- term and a long- term increase in aggression and violence in young viewers.

Most of the research in examining the short- term effects of media violence has been widely studied in experimental and meta- analysis research. On the other hand, long term effects of media violence to aggression which investigate the impact of violent TV program viewing from childhood aggression to adulthood aggression (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006). Long- term effect movie violent to aggression were mostly investigated through longitudinal or cross-sectional research design (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006; Gentile & Bushman, 2012; Krahé, Busching & Möller, 2012).

According to Bushman and Huesmann (2006), results from the meta- analysis study showed that exposure to TV violence was significantly predicted short- term and long- term effect on aggressive behavior for children and adult. In addition, adult displayed larger effect sizes compare to children in short term study whereas children displayed larger effect sizes compare to adult in long-term study. The finding indicated that short- term effects are mostly due to the priming of existing well encoded scripts, schemas, or beliefs. Besides, long- term effects require the encoding of scripts, schemas, or believe. Compare to adult, children with young minds with fewer existing encoded cognitions and less interference can encode new scripts, schemas, and beliefs via observational learning (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006). Therefore, children are exposed to greater long- term effects.

Earlier meta- analysis reviews on the studies of media violence on aggression have reported average effect sizes ranging from r= .11 (Hogben, 1998) to r= .31 (Piak & Comstock, 1994). In addition, the reviews found that all cases have found a significant positive relation between the variables. That is, greater a person exposure to media violence is strongly link to increases in aggression (Bushman & Anderson, 2001).

According to research done by Gentile et al., (2010) to investigate the relationship between media violence exposure and physical, relational, proactive, and reactive aggression among 641 students found out that media violence exposure was significant correlated with physical aggression (r= .52, p< 0.01), reactive physical aggression (r= .30, p< 0.01) and physical aggression (r= .25, p< 0.01) among students.

In another study, Md Salleh et al., (2009) examined the effects of watching violence movies on the attitudes concerning aggression among 216 adolescent boys aged 13-17. Research results found out that adolescents with violence movie preferred were significantly more supportive of the attitude that aggression is acceptable and warrented, as compared to those adolescents who prefer movies with little or no violence. Overall, there was a significant and p

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