Study: Depression, Not Violent Media, is a Predictor of Aggressive Behavior

New research by one Dr. Christopher Ferguson from Texas A&M International University finds that depression in young people has more of a correlation to aggressive and violent behavior than gaming does – at least among Hispanics. While the study was narrowed to one demographic, the conclusions are nonetheless interesting.

"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 concluded. "The current study finds no evidence to support a long-term relationship between video game violence use and subsequent aggression. Even though the debate over violent video games and youth violence will continue, it must do so with restraint."

Ferguson recruited 302 (mostly) Hispanic youths between the ages of 10 – 14 years-old, from a small city on the border of Mexico. The population of this unnamed city was primarily of Hispanic dissent. Participants were interviewed at the start of the study and at the end of the study 12 months later.

He then looked at how much exposure the subjects had to violence in video games, television, and negative events in their lives. Negative events included neighborhood problems, bad relationships with adults, antisocial behavior, family attachment, delinquent peers, family interaction and communication, exposure to domestic violence, depressive symptoms, serious aggression, bullying, and delinquent behavior.

His research showed that (at the beginning of the study) 75 percent of young people played video games within the past month on computers, consoles or other devices, and 40 percent played games with violent content. Naturally, boys played more violent games than girls. One year later, 7 percent reported being involved in at least one "criminally violent act during the previous 12 months," with the common crime being physical assaults on other students or the use of force to take something away from someone else. Nineteen percent reported engaging in at least one nonviolent crime during the same period, such as shoplifting or theft on school property.

During the course of his research, Ferguson found that symptoms of depressions were a "strong predictor" for youth aggression and rule breaking. Depression was especially influential in those who were identified as having preexisting antisocial personality traits. The research did not find that exposure to violence from video games or television at the start of the study was a good predictor of aggressive behavior in young people.

Dr. Furgeson’s research will appear in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Source: Science 2.0, image credit

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