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Violent video games trigger aggressive cognition in children

Wednesday March 26, 2014
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Habitually playing violent video games appears to increase aggression in children, regardless of parental involvement and other factors, according to a study based in Singapore.

More than 90% of American youths play video games, many of which depict violence that frequently is portrayed as fun, justified and without negative consequences, researchers wrote in background information for the study, which was published March 24 on the website of JAMA Pediatrics.

Douglas A. Gentile, PhD, of Iowa State University, Ames, and colleagues tracked children and adolescents in Singapore over three years on self-reported measures of gaming habits, aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition and empathy. Examples of aggressive cognition are aggressive fantasies and attaching motives of hostility to ambiguous provocations.

Among 3,034 children, a habit of playing violent video games was associated with long-term, self-reported aggressive behavior through increases in aggressive cognition, and the correlation held regardless of parental involvement, sex and initial aggressiveness. There was a slight relation to age, with younger children prone to a larger increase in aggressive cognition related to initial violent game play than were older children.

Empathy did not appear to influence the effects on aggression of playing violent video games. However, the authors suggest more investigation is needed before concluding the effects are entirely the result of changes in aggressive cognition.

“Given that more than 90% of youths play video games, understanding the psychological mechanisms by which they can influence behaviors is important for parents and pediatricians and for designing interventions to enhance or mitigate the effects,” the authors wrote.

Study abstract: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1850198


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