Explanation 1: Exposure to pro-social behaviour
Despite concern over the anti-social content in popular television programmes, there is clear evidence of a comparable level of pro-social content (Greenberg et al., 1980)
A02: Supported by... WOODARD (1999), who found that 77% of children's programmes in the US contained pro-social messages, but only 4 of the top 20 most-watched programmes did so.
A01: Relative effects
These pro-social acts frequently appear alongside acts of anti-social behaviour which may explain why their influence tends to be overshadowed.
A02: Effectiveness of pro-social programming
Prolonged viewing of pro-social programmes can result in substantial increases in children's pro-social reasoning (EISENBERG, 1983)
Explanation 2: Acquisition of pro-social behaviours and norms
A01: Observational learning
BANDURA (1965) argues that children learn by observing behaviour, and imitating those behaviours that are likely to bring rewards.
A01: Pro-social acts represent social norms
Unlike the depiction of anti-social acts, pro-social acts tend to represent social norms rather than contrast with them. Children are more likely to be rewarded for imitating pro-social acts
A02: However... children are most affected by pro-social messages when concrete pro-social acts are demonstrated rather than more abstract messages.
A02: Pro-social versus anti-social effects
Children are able to generalise better from watching anti-social rather than pro-social acts on TV. Mixing the two together may have a damaging effect on pro-social messages (SILVERMAN and SPRAFKIN, 1980)
Explanation 3: Developmental factors
A01: Reasoning skills
Reasoning skills synonymous with pro-social behaviour (e.g. empathy) develop throughout childhood and into adolescence; therefore young children are less likely to be affected by pro-social.
A02: However: MARES (1996) found that the weakest effect from pro-social programming was on adolescents, and strongest on primary school children
A01: Ability to understand pro-social messages
Research suggests that young children have more difficulty understanding abstract pro-social messages in TV programmes and so may be less affected by them
A02: This might be explained by... the fact that young children may imitate pro-social acts if they believe they will bring a reward. Adolescents may act pro-socially for purely altruistic reasons.