How Does Social Learning Theory Explain Aggressive Behaviour in Children?


Martha Robinson

The Social Learning Theory is a widely accepted explanation for aggressive behavior in children. This theory suggests that children learn aggressive behavior through observation and imitation of others, particularly through their interactions with family members, peers, and media influences.

Observational Learning

The core concept of the Social Learning Theory is that children observe and imitate the behaviors they see around them. This includes both positive and negative behaviors. When children witness aggressive behavior being rewarded or reinforced, they are more likely to imitate that behavior in their own lives.

For example, if a child sees their sibling being praised or given attention after hitting another child, they may learn that aggression is an effective way to get what they want. They may then begin to use aggression as a means of solving conflicts or gaining attention themselves.


In addition to observation, modeling plays a significant role in the Social Learning Theory. Children are more likely to imitate behaviors demonstrated by individuals they perceive as influential or powerful, such as parents, older siblings, or popular peers.

If a child witnesses their role model engaging in aggressive behavior and receiving positive outcomes (such as admiration from others), they are more likely to emulate those actions. This can create a cycle of aggressive behavior being passed down from generation to generation within families or peer groups.

Media Influence

The media also plays a crucial role in shaping children’s behavior by providing numerous examples of aggression. Television shows, movies, video games, and even social media platforms often depict violence as an acceptable means of resolving conflicts or achieving goals.

When children repeatedly see aggression being portrayed positively in various forms of media, it normalizes this behavior for them. They may start to believe that aggression is an effective and acceptable strategy for dealing with everyday challenges.


Reinforcement is a critical component of the Social Learning Theory. When children receive positive reinforcement for aggressive behavior, such as attention, praise, or rewards, it increases the likelihood of them engaging in similar behaviors in the future.

On the other hand, if aggressive behavior is consistently met with negative consequences or lack of reinforcement, children are less likely to continue exhibiting that behavior. These consequences can include disapproval from authority figures, loss of privileges, or social isolation.


The Social Learning Theory provides valuable insights into how aggressive behavior in children can be explained. By understanding the role of observation, modeling, media influence, and reinforcement, parents and educators can take proactive measures to promote positive behaviors and discourage aggression.

By creating environments that emphasize non-aggressive conflict resolution strategies and providing appropriate role models, we can help children develop healthier ways of dealing with their emotions and interactions with others.