Traumatization and Television News Viewing: Implications for Leadership


Alisha Francis, Ph.D.

Northwest Missouri State University


Carla Edwards, Ph.D.

Northwest Missouri State University


Duane F. Reinert, Ph.D.

Conception Seminary College


Television allows for vivid images unique to the medium, prompting concerns about graphic news content as coverage of violent events increases. Research related to Vicarious Traumatization suggests that vivid imagery may be associated with traumatic symptoms. Terror Management Theory and Frommian Automaton Conformity Theory indicate, in turn, that the perceived threats that accompany those symptoms could be linked to leadership behaviors characterized by a high need for structure, a focus on production, and a preference for top down hierarchy in the workplace. The current study explores those dynamics and their implications for young adults, considering the relationships between television news viewing, traumatization related to news viewing, and leadership behaviors. Findings of our survey-based study of college students (n = 179) were consistent with earlier studies and suggest that time spent viewing television news is positively related to vicarious traumatization. That vicarious trauma also influenced the degree to which participants indicated they enacted authoritarian, production oriented, and highly structured leadership behaviors. The associated patterns have the potential to inhibit leadership effectiveness in certain situations and underscore the need for additional investigations of the effects of media on human development.