Engaging in violence on American television: A comparison of child, teen, and adult perpetrators

Barbara J. Wilson, Carolyn M. Colvin, Stacy L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the perpetrators of violence on American television in terms of their chronological age. In particular, the content analysis compares the amount and nature of violence committed by child and teen characters to that committed by adult characters. The results suggest that younger perpetrators are depicted in several ways that pose risks for the child viewer. Compared to adult perpetrators, child perpetrators are more often portrayed as attractive, are less likely to be punished for aggression, and engage in violence that results in fewer negative consequences to their victims. In addition, these younger characters are disproportionately featured on the very programs and channels that are targeted to the child audience. The findings are discussed in terms of children's attention to, and social learning from, different types of characters on television.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-60
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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