Video Game Wars

Studies conflict over whether video games contribute to aggressive behavior in youths

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In yet another study to look at the link between video games and behavior in teens, exposure to violent video games and television is not related to serious acts of youth aggression or violence among Hispanics..

New research from Dr. Christopher Ferguson at Texas A&M International University indicates depressive symptoms are a strong predictor for youth aggression and rule breaking as opposed to violent TV and video game exposure. The depressive symptoms were shown to be particularly severe for those who had preexisting antisocial personality traits.

For the study, Ferguson recruited 302 mainly Hispanic youths between the ages of 10 and 14 from a small Hispanic-majority city on the border of Mexico. He interviewed the participants twice -- once at the beginning of the study and again 12 months later. Of those, only seven of the children reported engaging in at least one criminally violent act during that time. Most of the acts were physical assaults on other students or using physical force to steal from someone. A total of nineteen percent of respondents reported engaging in at least one nonviolent crime during the same period, which usually meant shoplifting or theft made on a school campus.

During the study, about 75 percent of the kids played video games on computers, consoles and other devices. Of those, 40 percent played violent video games. Boys were more likely to play violent video games than girls.

“Depressive symptoms stand out as particularly strong predictors of youth violence and aggression, and therefore current levels of depression may be a key variable of interest in the prevention of serious aggression in youth," Ferguson said. "The current study finds no evidence to support a long-term relationship between video game violence use and subsequent aggression."

The study contradicts findings from an Iowa State University study published this year, which found violent video games a risk factor for future aggression and other negative outcomes based on meta-analysis (statistical methods used to analyze and combine results from previous, related literature).

“We can now say with utmost confidence that regardless of research method ... and regardless of the cultures tested in this study, you get the same effects,” said Craig Anderson, Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

Those effects include an increased likelihood of aggressive behavior in both the short-term and long-term, which increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases so-called pro-social behavior.

"It’s time to get off the question of, ‘Are there real and serious effects?’" said Anderson. "That’s been answered and answered repeatedly."

Yale School of Medicine may beg to differ -- at least where boys are concerned. The school reported no negative health consequences of gaming in boys and even found video-game playing to be linked to lower odds of smoking regularly.

The findings stand in stark contrast to many previously publicized reports suggesting that gaming leads to aggression, said Rani Desai, associate professor of psychiatry and epidemiology and public health at Yale.

The same study also found girls who are "regular gamers" were more likely to engage in serious school fighting and carry a weapon to school.

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Review Date: 
December 15, 2010
Last Updated:
December 15, 2010