Chills and thrills: Does radio harm our children? The controversy over program violence during the age of radio

Paul M. Dennis, Elizabethtown College


A review of the popular and scientific periodical for the 1930s and 1940s revealed that the controversy surrounding the radio "thriller" and its possible harmful effects on young listeners was one of radio's most highly publicized issues during its golden years of broadcasting. Many of the questions raised concerning this issue were similar to those asked later during the age of television. Relying heavily upon the psychoanalytic emphasis on emotion, catharsis, and intrapsychic dynamics, expert opinion voiced in various popular periodicals and newspapers of the day suggested that the violence and excitement portrayed in many of the crime and adventure programs was harmless, and perhaps beneficial, for most listeners. However, research in support of this conclusion was sparse, and psychologists evidenced little interest in the issue. Not until the advent of television, and the emergence of social learning theory in the early 1960s, did psychologists direct significant research effort towards evaluating the effects of media violence. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.