Short- And long-term effects of superhero media on young children's risk-taking behaviors

Academic Article


  • Objective Unintentional injuries, the leading cause of death for American children, are caused by a range of psychosocial factors, including risk behavior. One factor that may impact child risktaking is modeling of superhuman risk-taking from superhero media, both immediately following superhero exposure and based on lifetime exposure and engagement. Methods Fifty-nine 5- year-olds were randomly assigned to view either a 13-min age-appropriate superhero television show or a comparable nonsuperhero show. After the viewing, children engaged in three risk-taking measures: (a) activity room, unsupervised play for 5 min with assortment of apparently dangerous items that might encourage child risk-taking; (b) picture sort, 10 illustrations of children in risk situations, with participant response concerning intended risk-taking in that situation; and (c) vignettes, 10 stories presenting situations with varying degrees of risk, with participant response on intended choice. Parents completed questionnaires concerning children's long-term superhero media exposure and individual superhero engagement (e.g., if child's most recent Halloween costume was of a superhero). Correlations and regressions evaluated effects of immediate superhero exposure, lifetime superhero exposure, and lifetime superhero engagement on children's risk-taking. Results Mixed results emerged. Lifetime superhero exposure was significantly related to children's risk-taking outcomes in two bivariate (vignettes and picture sort) and one multivariate (picture sort) model. Neither immediate superhero exposure nor lifetime superhero engagement was strongly related to risk-taking. Conclusions Children's lifetime superhero exposure may influence children's risk-taking. Given American children's substantial media exposure, research should continue to unpack the role of superhero media on children's unintentional injury and other health risk behaviors.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Morgan CH; Morrongiello BA; Schwebel DC
  • Start Page

  • 779
  • End Page

  • 789
  • Volume

  • 46
  • Issue

  • 7