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Abstract

Objectives: The primary purpose of this research is to understand the media's impact on individual attitudes and behaviors related to aggression, sexuality, and body image. This research is of particular importance because it uses up-to-date data reflecting effects based on the current media environment. Additionally, it includes a racially diverse sample.

Methods: A survey of 407 students at a large, public university was conducted. The survey instrument contained general measures related to media consumption, including overall television, video game, and internet use, as well as more specific questions related to particular types of media, such as pornography. For the dependent variables, questions were included that measured both attitudes and behaviors related to aggression, sexuality, and body image.

Results: Consistent with predictions, media use impacted both attitudes and behaviors related to aggression, sexuality, and body image. Specifically, overall television consumption led to increased levels of aggression (r=.18, pr=.20, pr=.24, pr=.42, pr=.40, p

Conclusions: The media continue to play an important role in the development of attitudes and behaviors. It is warranted, therefore, to continue to investigate what media can cause negative outcomes, as well as to determine how those outcomes vary based on race and gender.

Key Take Away Points

  • General media exposure led to increased positive attitudes toward acting aggressively as well as overall higher levels of individual aggression.
  • Early and current pornography use was related to increased sexual permissiveness as well as increased sexual behavior.
  • Women-focused magazine use was associated with increased adoption of the thin ideal, decreased satisfaction with self-appearance, and increased restricted eating and bulimic behaviors.

Author Biography

Temple Northup, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston. His research investigates the psychological effects and underlying processes associated with media consumption.

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Responses to this Article:

Francesca R. Dillman Carpentier, Media Influence on Youth: Scientific Evidence, Policy Considerations, and the History of Media Self-Regulation (March 2013)