Study on the effect of watching wrestling on TV draws the ire of WWE chairman McMahon

MUMBAI: A study in the US on the relationship between watching professional wrestling on television and violent behaviour in adolescentsa has been published in published in the August 2006 issue of Pediatrics magazine.

It is based on interviews conducted way back in late 1999.
The study notes that there were significant correlations between the frequency of watching wrestling on television and engaging in date fighting, fighting in general, and weapon carrying for both males and females, although the relationships were stronger among females than among males. The frequency of watching wrestling was highest among students reporting date fighting when either the victim or perpetrator had been drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs.

When analysed using logistic regression, the strongest relationships were observed between the frequency of watching wrestling and date-fight perpetration among females in cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. These findings persisted after adjusting for multiple other factors.

Not one to stay silent WWE chairman Vince McMahon issued a statement saying, “We regret that this seven year old junk science was re-issued. It was junk science then, and is junk science now. It took them seven years to get someone to actually read it and it hasn’t even been subjected to a peer review. There is nothing new in the study, and we think it is recycled garbage put forward by some obscure professor who finally got someone to read his paper and is trying to get his name in the media.” The WWE is contemplating legal action.

The study in question notes that for males and females, the frequency of watching wrestling was highest among students who fought with their dates when alcohol or other drugs were involved. The association between watching wrestling and date fighting was stronger among females than males. The relationship between watching wrestling on television and being the perpetrator of dating violence was also stronger among females and remained consistent over a 6- to 7-month time period.

Lending support to McMahon however is Syracuse University director of the Center for the study of popular television Robert Thompson. He finds that the study that claims correlation between viewership of professional wrestling and date-fighting among teenagers problematic.

He says, “What always worries me about these kinds of studies is that they imply a cause. This study claims nothing more than a correlation. So many people immediately see these studies, and they suggest that wrestling is causing these things, and I don’t think that is a done deal by any stretch of the imagination.”

Researchers conducted their initial interviews in the fall of 1999, sampling 2,228 male and female high school students. They concluded that there was an association between teenagers who watched wrestling on television and those who had a tendency toward violence, including fighting on dates and carrying weapons.

“Whether you can make the step that then says people who watch wrestling become more violent…is a lot more difficult to prove, and I don’t think these studies prove it" explains Thompson. “I think it would be very, very difficult to put together a study that could actually control enough variables that you could demonstrate that.”

In his own personal and admittedly 'unscientific' experience, Thompson said that he can recall always having 10 or 12 students in the classes he instructed every year who were really into WWE programming.
He says, “Invariably the WWE enthusiasts were among my smartest, geekiest students out there’ always the ‘A’ students who always went the extra yard on their papers. I could certainly say that there is a correlation between really good male students and an interest in wrestling. That wouldn’t prove that watching wrestling is going to make you smart, but in my particular experience and analysis, I could demonstrate that” Thompson said.

A few days ago on CNN US anchors Susan Hendricks and Mike Galanos discussed the study and addressed several emails received in an informal viewer response poll. Viewers did not seem to interpret the association between violent behavior and watching sports-entertainment, as claimed by Wake Forest researchers.

One viewer wrote in saying that he attended sports-entertainment events with his parents and other family members. In watching the in-ring action and backstage action, he always knew that it was not “behaviour that he was to repeat on his own.”

Another viewer asked, “Could it be that those who watch wrestling are already pre-disposed to violence in some way?”

Thompson adds, “These studies are demonstrating a correlation. For example, if the tree in my backyard gets bigger, the hair on my head gets thinner. There’s a direct correlation there, no question about it; one happens, the other happens. But there’s certainly no cause there, or I would’ve chopped down that tree a long time ago.”

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