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In accordance with Novak and Pelaez (2004) there are several developmental theories that have been adopted by psychologists to explain the human behaviour. The behaviour of a person may be explained theoretically from a bio-psychosocial perspective, or by applying theories such as psychodynamic theories, learning theories, alternate and post-modern theories, and system and ecological theories (p. 216). Bio-psychosocial perspective explains human behaviour in biological, psychological, and sociological approaches. However, the sociological approach applies the social learning theory to explain believed, ideal, and actual behaviors of an individual.
In line with Greene and Kropf (2009) Social learning theory mainly focuses on learning experiences that take place within a social context. These theory sates that human beings learn from each other through concepts such as imitation, observation, and modelling (p. 78). Children and adolescents can learn or acquire behaviors by observing other people or materials from the media. Moreover, this theory may be considered as a bridge between cognitive learning theories and behaviourist learning theories. An observer may be reinforced by the environment or a third party. Behaviors acquired through observation and imitation may produce reinforcing or satisfying results (Greene and Kropf 2009, p. 81).
In relation to Singer and Singer (2001) Media facilities such as a television can be a strong source of education and entertainment for children and adolescents if the right programming is practised (p. 341). Nevertheless, studies have also shown that media can have negative influence on children, adolescents, and the society in general. As a matter of fact, certain studies show that it can distort body image, create fear, and shorten attention span and anti-social behaviors if there is unlimited and unmonitored exposure. Apparently moral thinking and behaviour are highly influenced by modelling and observation. Modelling can affect behaviour by teaching new behaviors, influencing the rate of behaviour learnt previously, and encouraging behaviors that are previously forbidden (Singer and Singer 2001, p. 342). However, television programs that contain suggestive dialogue and explicit scenes may influence the sexual behaviour of children and adolescents. Consequently, young girls and boys end up engaging in early unprotected sex resulting to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
The great amount of time and information that children and adolescents are taking in has highly influenced their behaviours especially regarding violence, gender, and moral behaviors. According to Singer and Singer (2001) Studies have clearly shown that there is a close relationship between real-life aggression and media violence. When children role models and media celebrities depict violent behaviors, psychologically the children will take such behaviors as normal and acceptable hence adopt them (p. 415). Adolescents and children are likely to lose their self-identity and adopt that of media celebrities in order to feel acceptable in such social setting.
In accordance with Singer and Singer (2001) it’s quite obvious that there are different recognizable gender roles in modern society, but extrinsic and intrinsic factors that motivate children and adolescents to take up the roles are variable. Television has become a primary asset in the lives of most children. Studies have indicated that television has had a major impact on gender roles development and certain programs have been reported to promote gender constancy instead of modelling pro-social behaviour (p. 341). Social learning theories have supported the fact that media has considerable influence on socialization. More often than not, the media portrays males as dynamic and masterful, whereas women are portrayed as nurturing and subordinate. Children and adolescents exposed to such programs develop very strong gender role stereotypes (Singer and Singer 2001, p. 341)).
Generally, male and female behaviour examples from the media are easily and quickly recognized by children and adolescents, thus, they utilize them to shape their identities and perspectives. From cognitive development point of view, children adopt different behaviors as they grow based on experience and the kind of environment they are exposed to. Children in the sensormotor, preoperational, and formal operational stages have their behaviours highly influenced by the things they observe and their role models (Singer and Singer 2001, p. 463).