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Children and the War on Iraq: Developmental Differences in Fear Responses to TV News Coverage
Unformatted Document Text:  War on Iraq -- 24. (see below) obtained in this study. It could also be argued that older children were exposed to more news footage than were younger children (see Smith et al., 2002; Smith & Wilson, 2002) and thus had more opportunities to see and hear about the atrocities surrounding the war. Indeed, the findings on two of the exposure measures suggest that older children were reportedly watching and seeking out more news coverage than were younger children. It is also possible that older children were more empathic to the victims in the war than were younger children (Wilson & Cantor, 1985) and thus experienced more fear. Unfortunately, we did not measure parents’ perceptions of children’s empathic reactivity to the news coverage. Thus, researchers may want to incorporate such measures in future investigations. There are probably multiple pathways to fear and concern, as evidenced by the small effect sizes obtained in this study. What is remarkable, however, is the parallelism in the findings obtained here with those of Cantor et al. (1993). Using a random sample of parents in the Mid West and roughly the same question, Cantor et al. (1993) found that 45% of the caregivers reported that their child had been upset by the news footage from the Gulf War. This point statistic is notably close to the one obtained in this study (49%, binomial z = .71, ns). Similar to our findings, Cantor et al. (1993) found no differences by age on this prevalence measure. Yet Smith et al. (2002) found that 60.8% of the parents of 5- to 17- year olds they surveyed reported the presence of fear in their child in response to news footage of 9/11 (binomial comparison between 9/11 and War on Iraq, z = 2.27, p < .05). This higher prevalence of concern makes sense given the fact that the terrorists’ attacks took place on domestic soil and involved repeated, graphic visual depictions of death and suffering.

Authors: Smith, Stacy. and Moyer-Guse, Emily.
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War on Iraq -- 24.
(see below) obtained in this study. It could also be argued that older children were
exposed to more news footage than were younger children (see Smith et al., 2002; Smith
& Wilson, 2002) and thus had more opportunities to see and hear about the atrocities
surrounding the war. Indeed, the findings on two of the exposure measures suggest that
older children were reportedly watching and seeking out more news coverage than were
younger children. It is also possible that older children were more empathic to the
victims in the war than were younger children (Wilson & Cantor, 1985) and thus
experienced more fear. Unfortunately, we did not measure parents’ perceptions of
children’s empathic reactivity to the news coverage. Thus, researchers may want to
incorporate such measures in future investigations.
There are probably multiple pathways to fear and concern, as evidenced by the
small effect sizes obtained in this study. What is remarkable, however, is the parallelism
in the findings obtained here with those of Cantor et al. (1993). Using a random sample
of parents in the Mid West and roughly the same question, Cantor et al. (1993) found that
45% of the caregivers reported that their child had been upset by the news footage from
the Gulf War. This point statistic is notably close to the one obtained in this study (49%,
binomial z = .71, ns). Similar to our findings, Cantor et al. (1993) found no differences
by age on this prevalence measure.
Yet Smith et al. (2002) found that 60.8% of the parents of 5- to 17- year olds they
surveyed reported the presence of fear in their child in response to news footage of 9/11
(binomial comparison between 9/11 and War on Iraq, z = 2.27, p < .05). This higher
prevalence of concern makes sense given the fact that the terrorists’ attacks took place on
domestic soil and involved repeated, graphic visual depictions of death and suffering.


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