Indirect Aggression in Animated Disney Films


Children cartoons, disney films, aggression


Children’s cartoons have been documented to be some of the most violent TV programs currently on the air, showing nearly 3 times the amount of violence per hour as nonchildren’s programming (Wilson et al., 2002). However, violence is not the only form of aggression on TV. Indirect aggression (e.g., gossiping, spreading rumors, social exclusion) has also been found on TV, at rates that exceed the current violence levels (Coyne & Archer, 2004). Although indirect aggression (also called relational aggression) has been examined in TV programs popular among adolescents, it has never been examined in children’s TV or films. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to examine the frequency and portrayal of indirect aggression in children’s animated Disney films. Overall, Disney films portrayed indirect aggression 9.23 times per hour. When character counts were taken into account, indirect aggression was portrayed by males and females at equal levels. Indirect aggression was more likely to be portrayed as unjustified and by “bad” characters. “High SES” characters were also more likely to engage in indirect aggression than “low SES” or “middle-class” characters. Compared with the amount of violence in children’s TV programs, the amount of indirect aggression in Disney films was quite low and was usually portrayed in ways that would not facilitate imitation.

Original Publication Citation

Coyne, S. M., & *Whitehead, E. (2008). Indirect aggression in animated Disney films. Journal of Communication, 58, 382-395.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Communication




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor