One of the people cited in the article was Brian Sutton-Smith, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. The NY Times cites him as believing that the research done on the topic cannot be conclusive due to the small sample size and the subjective definition of aggression. Rather, according to the Times, he claims that what the teachers call "aggressive behavior" is just normal play, especially for young boys, and is integral in the development of normal relationships with peers as well as in the development f a sense of competition.
I found the article referred to in a database, and after reading it, I dont think that the article misrepresented Smith's thoughts, but rather condensed a fifteen page work into a meager paragraph. One thing from Smith's paper that I found rather interesting and wish that the press article would have dealt with more was his claim that when teachers don't allow children to play with toy guns, the children use other things, such as flashlights, as guns. And furthermore that the children will sort of hide this from their teachers.
This makes me wonder what is so appealing about guns and violence to children. It seems that from a very young age people are attracted to such things. Is it simply because of the media, or is there something more going on in our brains that associates some sort of positive feeling with aggressive behaviors and violence? I think this is a question that has been and continues to be debated. I wonder if we'll ever really know...
"Toy Guns: Do They Fan Aggression?" NY Times 16 June 1988.
Playfighting as Folkplay amongst Preschool Children
- Published by: Western States Folklore Society