Families, Delinquency, and Crime: Vicarious Learning Essay

            Vicarious learning is the learning through watching others. This method of learning is also referred to as observational or social learning.

While vicarious learning could be done in any life stage, the consensus is that it is especially vital in childhood when authority is most important.Vicarious learning is mainly associated with the works of noted psychologist Albert Bandura.  Bandura performed several case studies on observational and social learning.One study Bandura performed was the Bobo Doll Experiment in 1963. Bandura’s study was designed to evaluate social learning or learning through imitation. Children were selected for the study because it was thought they have less social conditioning and exposure to certain behaviors. The children in the study observed adults engaged in both aggressive and nonagressive activities. After the observation, the children were placed in a different environment, without the adults, to observe and determine whether or not the children would imitate these same behaviors, rather aggressive or nonaggressive.

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Bandura made four predictions at the beginning of the Bobo Doll Experiment. First, he believed the children that witnessed aggressive adult behavior would act in a similar manner even when the aggressive adult was not present. He also thought that these children’s behavior would be dramatically different than that of the children who witnessed nonaggressive adults. Second, he believed when the adult was not present, the children who witnessed the nonaggressive adult behavior show less aggression than those who witnessed the aggressive behavior. He also felt that the children would be less aggressive than those children who did not witness any adult.

Third, he believed the children would be more likely engage in the same behavior if the adult is the same sex as the child. The rational is that children generally identify more readily with adults and parents of the same sex. Fourth, Bandura’s hypothesis concluded that because aggressive behavior tends to be a more male-oriented trait, the male children will more likely display aggressive behavior if they observed aggressive adult males.As a result of the study, Bandura found that the children exposed to aggressive adults were more likely to engage in emotionally, verbally and physically aggressive ways towards others.

Likewise, children who witnessed nonaggressive adults or who did not observe any adult, rarely, if ever, displayed emotionally, verbally or physically aggressive behaviors. The results regarding gender strongly supported Bandura’s hypothesis that children are more influenced by adults of the same sex. Boys exposed to aggressive  male adults acted more aggressive than boys exposed to aggressive females. The same results were found in girls who were exposed to aggressive females, however, the results were less dramatic than the boys. In conclusion, it was proven that males are more aggressive than females in all instances of exposure to aggression.Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment is important to psychology as it sets the precedent for many more studies on the effects of learning violence through other means, be it people or other media, on our children.

We can see in today’s society an increase in violence and crime among our children. Children are exposed to more violence through adults, television, radio, video games and other resources. Our children appear to be desensitized to violence and the affect it has on their behavior. Many do not understand they are being influenced by negative images. Vicarious learning studies prove that negative and aggressive behaviors are learned, these studies also can be used to teach children to engage in positive and nonaggressive behavior. Vacarious learning can change the way our children are exposed and react to violence in today’s society.

BIBLIOGRAPHYSimons, Ronald L., Simons, Leslie Gordon, Wallace, Lora Ebert. Families, Delinquency, and Crime: Linking Society’s Most Basic Institution to Antisocial Behavior. California: Roxbury 2004Bandura, Albert.

Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall 1973


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