Parents have the ability to influence how a child thinks and behaves without realizing it. From a young age, children mimic their parent’s thoughts and actions unknowingly.
In 1961, renowned psychologist Albert Bandura conducted an experiment with 72 children to understand how children react and adapt to adult behavior and actions. Bandura had 3 sets of 24 children (12 boys and girls each) witness a different scene involving an adult interacting with a Bobo Doll. One group (group A) of children witnessed an adult behave aggressively towards the doll and attempt to knock it down. But the weighted design of the doll kept it from being knocked down; it kept springing back up. Group A watched from the side as an adult became furious and violent against the doll. Group B watched an adult play with other toys, leaving the doll untouched, while Group C, the control group, did not experience any interaction. When the children were left to interact with the toys by themselves, it was noted that Group A children expressed aggressive behaviors and tendencies towards the doll. The conclusion of the experiment helped shape Bandura’s Social Learning Theory “that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation and modeling.” How true is this in the shaping of opinions among teens, including political opinions?
In 21st century America, citizens are subjected to the daily influence by other people and media sources. Some children and young adults look up to their parents and copy [their] opinions without forming their own. With the presidential election on the horizon, The Match spoke with several students about how their political views are influenced and how their own political opinions are formed.
Many students, like Mac Hester (‘20), use CNN as a primary source to find their political news. CNN’s popularity among students isn’t surprising, considering that the network’s rankings have always statistically risen during election season. Most recently CNN has experienced a 38% growth of new evening viewers (to an average of 712,000) in 2016. Jessica Joseph (‘18), who uses CNN as a news source, says that CNN “doesn’t influence [her] political views but that it provides information in making a decision.” While many students flock to CNN for news, Addison Ratchford (‘18) finds her political news from theSkimm, and Josh Spivey (‘19) finds his news from Vox. Sarah Garman Rohr (‘20) uses political debates and TV advertisements as a news outlet. Andrew Scott (‘18) even finds his news from 4chan.
While the media can influence an individual, parents mold their children’s views. Sam Roberts (’18) says that his parents are “pretty open minded with politics and don’t bombard [him] with their opinions” and that he “tries to look at both sides, before making a judgement.” Rohr admits that her parents have influenced her political views, “especially during this campaign,” saying her “views are similar to my parents, and I agree with them; however, I can argue both sides of the election” she concluded. Spivey says that his parents have influenced him through “talks at the dinner table growing up.” Isabella Vita (‘19) says that her political views are similar to her parents, but “since they have their own views, it’s easier to view the negatives.” Ratchford says that her political views are not similar to her parents in this election. “When I was younger I did what [they] thought, but I don’t anymore,” she remarked. Nate Stephen (‘19) says that his parent’s political views aren’t the same as his, but “the stuff that we agree on is more ethical.”
With the presidential election less than a month away, it is important to understand why we have our political opinions and what factors influence our decisions.
Featured image credit: Evan Sermon via Reuters.