Projects

Analysis of Data from the Metropolitan Area Child Study

Investigators
Principal Investigator at Michigan: L. Rowell Huesmann; Collaborators: Paul Boxer (Rutgers University), Nancy Guerra (University of California Riverside), Pat Tolan (University of Illinois at Chicago), David Henry (University of Illinois at Chicago), and Rick VanAcker (University of Illinois at Chicago).

Funding Agencies
National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Internal Funds.

Project Summary
This project involves secondary analysis of data from a large-scale longitudinal, field experiment in Chicago. The major aims of the analyses are to increase the understanding of the etiology and prevention of aggressive and violent interpersonal behavior by 1) evaluating the impact of three complementary, multi-year preventive interventions for high-risk, urban youth, 2) analyzing the patterns of growth in aggressive behavior in these youth as a function of other factors in their environment, and 3) analyze the mediating role of social cognitions in the development of aggressive behavior.. Sixteen schools and over 7,000 children from high-risk neighborhoods in the Chicago area participated between 1990 and 1997 in the study. Results analyzed and published to date have demonstrated that such interventions are effective prevention tools in supportive environments and change both behaviors and social cognitions, that exposure to neighborhood violence causes increases in subsequent aggression independently of any intervention, and that small group interventions may have unexpected effects. Data analyses are expected to continue for multiple years.

Causes of Gun Violence

Investigators
Principal Investigators at Michigan: L. Rowell Huesmann and Eric Dubow

Project Summary
Gun violence in the United States is a serious public health concern. The nation’s firearm death rate is the highest among industrialized nations, with an alarmingly high rate among African-American youth. We will examine childhood and adolescent contextual and individual predictors of late adolescent and early adulthood gun attitudes and gun violence among a sample of urban, mostly African-American youth, as well as factors that protect these youth from the effects of exposure to violence. First, we plan to follow up a sample of youth in Flint, Michigan, who were in grades 2, 4, and 9 when first interviewed in 2006-07. We have extensive 3-year prospective data on their media exposure, exposure to violence in the neighborhood and family, parenting, social cognitions related to aggression, and academic and behavioral outcomes (including self, parent, and teacher reports). We will collect geocoded crime data on their neighborhoods while growing up (e.g., exposure to gun violence and related gun crimes, independent of other forms of violence exposure, using geospatial analytic methods), and re-interview the participants again (ages 18, 19, and 24 years of age) on their attitudes toward and use of firearms (and collect criminal data on them). Second, we will conduct a new 3-wave prospective study of high school 10th graders in Flint to expand our knowledge of the risk factors that promote youth’s and young adults’ violent behaviors with firearms and other weapons; most important, we will collect self-report data on specific social cognitions related to weapon carrying and weapon use, as these weapon-related social cognitions were not available in our earlier study. In both studies, we also will examine potential protective factors (e.g., parenting, constructive social activities, civic engagement) that moderate the effects of exposure to violence on subsequent violent behavior. Our specific aims are to: 1) evaluate the impact of exposure to people’s use of weapons (guns, etc.) on risk for violent behavior, including weapon-carrying, weapon use, threatening others with a weapon, and committing crimes with a weapon; 2) examine the role of social cognitions and emotional reactions concerning general aggression and aggression with weapons in mediating the longitudinal effect of exposure to weapon violence on violent behavior; 3) examine the role of individual and contextual factors in moderating the impact of violence exposure on violent behavior; and 4) assess the impact of exposure to weapon violence and general violence at different ages on risk for subsequent weapon carrying and weapon use at later ages. This will allow us to test key theoretical propositions concerning mediating cognitive and emotional processes that might account for the long-term effects of general and weapon-specific violence exposure, as well as protective factors that can inform the development of multi-layered community intervention efforts to reduce gun violence among urban youth.

The Columbia County Longitudinal Study

Investigators
L. Rowell Huesmann, Eric Dubow, Paul Boxer

Funding Agencies
National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Project Summary
The Columbia County Longitudinal Study, pioneered by Leonard Eron, began in 1960 and has been directed at discovering the child and parental factors linked to child aggression. It has culminated so far in the collection of four waves of data over a 40-year span on 856 children who were living in Columbia County, NY, in 1960. The entire population of third graders (“Generation 2” or G2; N = 856; 436 boys, 420 girls) in the county participated in the first wave of this project in 1960 when 85% of the participants’ mothers and 71% of their fathers also were interviewed (“Generation 1” or G1). Follow-up assessments were conducted in 1970 (n = 427) when the participants were approximately 19 years of age; in 1981 (n = 409) when the participants were approximately 30 years of age; and most recently between 1999-2002 (n=523, or 61% of the original sample) when the participants were approximately 48 years of age. We also have interviewed 551 children of the original participants (“Generation 3” or G3): between 1999 and 2002 (average age approximately 19-20). Perhaps the most path-breaking early result concerned the discovered relation between early TV violence viewing and later aggression. This finding has had a substantial impact on the field’s understanding of the reality of observational learning as well as on social policy. Additionally, we have found moderate continuity in aggression from age 8 to age 48 for both for males and for females. We are also particularly interested in what contextual (e.g., family relationships, media influences) and personal (e.g., gender, self-concept) factors predict specific later competent outcomes (e.g., educational and occupational success) and problematic outcomes (e.g., aggression, substance use, psychopathology) within and across generations. Currently, we are collaborating with Finnish colleagues who have conducted a similar longitudinal study in that country (the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development); the goals are to assess whether similar processes account for continuities and discontinuities within and across generations in each country.

Contagion of Violence Project

Project Summary
Violence is a contagious disease. As with other contagious diseases, if people are exposed to violence, their own risk of behaving violently increases. Yet, unlike most contagious diseases, a person does not need to be very close to the violence in order to be infected with it. One can catch it at a distance. The infecting exposure can be an exposure to violence right in front of the person or it can be an exposure to distant violence through electronic media. The violence can be real-world violence or it can be dramatized violence. Furthermore, once a person catches the violence disease, the person becomes an infecting agent passing the disease to others. This contagion happens because various social cognitions and emotional reactions underlying aggressive behavior are automatically acquired from observing violence and subsequently promote violent and aggressive behavior.

The Contagion of Violence project aims to accumulate empirical data that demonstrates contagion of violence through exposure to proximal real-world violence and also through exposure to more distal and unreal violence in the electronic media. We also elaborate the psychological processes that underlie these effects including the mediators and moderators of the effects. We contend that this process is as powerful as it is because imitation and observational learning are innate and automatic in young humans, and because the human nervous system is particularly wired to promote imitation. Finally, we aim to demonstrate that conceiving of violence as a contagious disease has benefits for violence prevention efforts.

Cross-national Television and Aggression Study

Investigators
L. Rowell Huesmann

Funding Agencies
National Institute of Mental Health

Project Summary
The Cross National Television and Aggression Study examines the longitudinal relations between television violence viewing at ages 6 to 10 and adult aggressive, antisocial, and criminal behavior about 15 years later for samples of children growing up in the 70s and 80s in the USA (748) [denoted the Oak Park Longitudinal Study], Finland (220), Poland (237), and Israel (186). Two cohorts of children (1st grade and 3rd grade) were initially interviewed 3 times and 1 year intervals and then again 15 years later when they were in their early 20s. Multivariate data analyses reveal that childhood exposure to media violence predicts young adult aggressive behavior for both males and females especially when the child identified with aggressive characters. These relations persist even when the effects of socio economic status, intellectual ability, and a variety of parenting factors are controlled. The four samples of children are representative or urban populations in four different countries (Finland, Poland, Israel and the United States) allowing for greater generalization of results across cultures and social systems. Additionally, many different psycho-social outcome variables, contextual variables, and social cognitions were measured allowing for the examination of a variety of hypothesis unrelated to media violence. Data analyses are expected to continue for many years.

Effects on Children of Exposure to Political Violence: A Survey Study in Palestine and Israel

Investigators
Principal Investigator: L. Rowell Huesmann
Co-Principal Investigators: Eric Dubow, Jeremy Ginges, Paul Boxer, Simha Landau (Hebrew University), Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)

Funding Agencies
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Project Summary
The project seeks to advance our understanding of how persistent and extreme exposure to political conflict and violence combines with cognitive, emotional, and self processes to influence the psychosocial adjustment and mental health of children. We are studying those processes in two linked samples: Israeli (Jewish and Arab) and Palestinian children living in the conflicted areas of Israel and Palestine. We hypothesize that individual differences among children in our sample in exposure to extreme political violence will be associated with negative mental health consequences and problem behavior on the part of the children. However, we also hypothesize that there will be strong moderation of these effects as a function of parent-child relationships and peer relationships. This is a prospective longitudinal field study with a cohort-sequential sampling design to include children and adolescents at ages 8, 11, and 14 at the first assessment, who habe been followed annually for three years through the ages of 10, 13, and 16. Our samples have been recruited from communities located in Palestine and Israel, with the cooperation and collaboration of researchers based at Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. The assessments include interview measures for youth and their parents. Data collection was completed for the first three waves in the summer of 2010. We will be collecting a fourth wave of data as the respective cohorts reach ages 14, 17, and 21 (in 2013-2014). At that wave, we will examine emotional desentization to violent media content as well as biological stress response.

Serious Youth Violence and Exposure to Violent Media Project

Investigators
Principal Investigator: L. Rowell Huesmann
Co-Principal Investigators: Paul Boxer, Brad Bushman, Tom Johnson

Funding Agencies
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Project Summary
This project examines the links between the consumption of violent media (television programs, video games, and films) and serious antisocial and aggressive behavior by incarcerated delinquents. Our theoretical model hypothesizes that aggressive delinquents will frequently have histories of long-term exposure to media violence and will have social cognitions supporting aggression that media the effects of the violent media on their later aggressive behavior. Data collection for this project is in progress, and includes detailed interview measures administered to several different samples: 1) Youth incarcerated in state detention facilities; 2) Youth incarcerated in county detention facilities; 3) Adults incarcerated in state prisons; 4) Preschoolers from high-risk communities; and 4) High school students from a variety of communities. Our interviews focus intensively on media habits and antisocial behavioral histories in addition to social-cognitive factors and psychopathology. We also are collecting data on our target participants from parents, teachers, detention facility staff, and criminal record archives. Data collection should be completed in the fall of 2007.

TV Violence and Emotions Project

Investigators
L. Rowell Huesmann, Lucyna Kirwil (Warsaw University), Barbara Krahe (Potsdam University)

Funding Agencies
German Science Foundation, Polish Science Foundation, University of Michigan

Project Summary
This new project is aimed at investigating the relations between individual differences in emotional reactions to witnessing extreme media violence and individual differences in the propensity to behave aggressively. Experimental data are being collected in the USA, Germany, and Poland on individual differences in emotional reactions (skin conductance and self-report measures) to very violent scenes compared to emotional reactions to humorous or sad scenes. The hypothesis is that relatively reduced emotional reactions to violence scenes is predictive of greater aggression. Data are currently being collected in Germany, Poland, and the USA.

Video Game Violence Project

Investigators
Principal Investigator: Brad Bushman
Co-Principal Investigators: L. Rowell Huesmann, Craig Anderson, Paul Boxer and Doug Gentile

Funding Agencies
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Project Summary
This project investigates both the short and long-term effects of violent video games on children and adolescents. Our hypothesis is that playing violent video games primes aggressive cognitions and promotes mimicry of aggressive behaviors in the short run while playing them teaches. We are conducting a series of experiments in which we investigate how different dimensions of the content of violent games (e.g., first person vs. 3rd-person, active vs. passive participation) increase or decrease the short term effects. In addition, we are conducting a three-year longitudinal survey of large samples of 2nd, 4th, and 9th graders in urban areas, suburban areas, and rural areas to examine the long-term effects of playing violent games. The second wave of data collection is underway in 2007.

Youth's Social Cognitive Responses to Scenes of Ethnic Violence

Investigators
Principal Investigator: L. Rowell Huesmann
Co-Principal Investigators: Eric F. Dubow, Jeremy Ginges, Paul Boxer

Funding Agencies
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Project Summary
This project examines the way exposure to media depictions of real-world ethnic and political violence interacts with contextual and personal and factors to affect attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes regarding ethnic groups. We are centrally interested in associations between exposure to media depictions of violence in the Middle East region and the social-cognitive (attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes) of Jewish-American and Arab-American youth about the other group. We expect that greater exposure to middle-eastern violence in the mass media will be associated with more negative ethnic stereotypes about the other group particularly for those with strong ethnic identification with their own group. Individual interviews were conducted with 400 high school students (9th and 12th graders) of diverse backgrounds, but including substantial samples of Arab-American and Jewish-American youth. During these interviews the participants answered questions about their ethnic stereotypes and about their exposure to ethnic-political conflict and violence in the mass media, but they first completed computer reaction-time tasks (known as the IAT and the WIT) that assessed their attitudes and stereotypes toward ethnic groups “implicitly” without them being aware of the purpose. Data analysis is currently ongoing.

Other Projects

In addition to our major program projects a varitey of smaller projects are underway reflecting the individual interests of the staff. These include projects on sexual aggression, rap music, self-esteem and aggression, beliefs about aggression in immigrant youth peer-relations and aggression.

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