Almost Half of College Students Experience Abusive Relationships

Shocking news about violence in our culture: a new study finds that almost half of undergraduate students say they have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in personal relationships.

The study, published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and reported in the Washington Post, found that despite the examined “schools differing racial and socioeconomic mixes,” “students at each school reported similar experience with relationship violence.” 

These statistics come amid the mania over the newly released Batman movie, which according to USA Today had some parents “taken aback by several scenes, including a man being impaled with a pencil and a videotaped torture session.”  Several parents regretted taking their children, suggesting it needed a tougher rating. 

Yesterday's news also reports about a teen, obsessed with the movie Natural Born Killers, who strangled his girlfriend.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eric Tavulares “told police he has seen it [the movie] 10 to 20 times.  He told police, according to a complaint filed Monday, that he had been watching it Friday night, the night he strangled his childhood sweetheart, 18-year-old Lauren Aljubouri.”  The complaint says that during the night, “something caused him to switch mentally and he rolled over on Lauren Aljubouri and he began strangling her.”

Is violence in the entertainment media contributing to real-life violence?


In July 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics and five other medical groups reported a strong link between entertainment and actual violence.   According to the Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children, “well over 1000 studies—including reports from the Surgeon General's office, the National Institute of Mental Health, and numerous studies conducted by leading figures within our medical and public health organizations—our own members—point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children.  The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children.”

In 2007, Victor C. Strasburger, M.D., of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, wrote in Pediatrics that “the connection between media violence and real-life aggression is nearly as strong as the connection between smoking and lung cancer.”

Adolescent Medicine Clinics reported in 2005 that “studies have shown that violence is a frequent, glamorous and humorous part of television.  Violence is depicted as justifiable, necessary and without consequences.  There is a very strong connection between violence and televised violence.  Fear, aggression and desensitization are among the effects of televised violence.”

The Joint Statement given by the American Academy of Pediatrics and others listed similar consequences of entertainment media violence:

    “Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts.  Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behavior.” “Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life.  It can decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.” “Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place.  Viewing violence increases fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behaviors and a mistrust of others.” “Viewing violence may lead to real life violence.  Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.” 

As well, the statement documents the potential damaging effects of violent video games:  “Although less research has been done on the impact of violent interactive entertainment (video games and other interactive media) on young people, preliminary studies indicate that the negative impact may be significantly more severe than that wrought by television, movies, or music.”

CMI research assistant Colleen Raezler reported in her study, “Listen to Those Lyrics,” how music profoundly influences adolescents.  She reported that a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study in 2007 found that “music is known to be highly related to personal identity; young people often model themselves in terms of dress, character, and behavior after musical figures.”

Julia Seward is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.