Lots of young children are into superheroes and many parents think that the superhero culture will help their kids defend others and be nicer to their peers, but a study shows the exact opposite.
It was an observational study of 240 children. Parents rated their children’s identification and preoccupation with a superhero. Kids then rated their identification with a superhero.
- 10% liked the defending ability of the superheroes: “he shoots webs and he saves people”
- 20% talked about a violent skills, like “he’s big and can punch”, “he smashes and gets angry”, “he can smash and destroy everything, and he doesn’t care because he’s a big bully.” One even talked of killing.
- 70% of skills-related comments by children were benign in nature, like “he is big and strong”
Kids find violence and aggression easier to latch on to, and often the superheros put pro-social behaviour and violence together. Many young children can’t separate these.
Identifying themselves with violent superheros makes some children more likely to be violent with other children, as they imitate their superheroes.
What to do?
Limit and control what your children are exposed to. Watching violence and imitating superheros can make your kid a more violent child.
Effects of Viewing Superhero Programs on Aggressive, Prosocial, and Defending Behaviors in Preschool Children (Journal of Abnormal Psychology, link to summary)