There is a link between increases in physical aggression over time and playing aggressive video games, a team of researchers has found. A team of psychological researchers from Brock University, in Canada, published a paper in the journal Developmental Psychology looking at teenagers’ hostile real-world behaviour and how many violent video games those teenagers play.
The Telegraph reports that the study asked just under 1500 teenagers at a high school in Ontario, half boys and half girls, to self-report their own aggressive behaviour — shoving, kicking or punching other people — regularly over the course of four years. As the students aged from ninth grade (ages 14-15) to 12th grade (ages 17-18), “analysis showed that teenagers who played violent video games over a number of years saw steeper rises in their aggression scores during the study.”
The analysis did account for some other factors in the teenagers’ lives likely to account for increased aggression, including “gender, parental divorce and marijuana use”. However, the study leaves open the distinction between correlation and causation. Publicly available materials leave unclear in which direction the link might actually go: do the games cause teenagers to act aggressively, or are teenagers with aggressive dispositions more likely also to play violent games?
Longitudinal studies, like this one, are the best way to discover long-term effects and true connections. And now that high-definition, plausibly-textured gaming has settled in to so many households so comfortably, we will see more of them looking at the effects of Halo and Call of Duty on the children of the world. In the meantime, the Telegraph throws out one nugget to avoid blanket condemnation of video games: the teenagers who played non-violent games apparently didn’t go around punching or kicking people any more than usual. Seems like they never saw how ticked off Super Hexagon or Angry Birds can make some of the people I know.
Violent video games make teenagers more aggressive, study finds [The Telegraph]