Iowa State Researchers Find Link Between Juvenile Offenders and Playing Violent Video Games

A new study by Iowa State researchers claims that (wait for it) there is a "strong connection" between playing violent video games and youth violence and delinquency. Backed by the usual suspects at the university that continues to publish studies saying that video games are basically responsible for everything wrong with children today, this particular study was conducted by Matt DeLisi, a professor of sociology at the university. He claims that his research shows a strong connection even when taking into consideration a "history of violence and psychopathic traits among juvenile offenders. "

The study published in the April issue of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice looked at video game exposure levels for 227 juvenile offenders in Pennsylvania (why Pennsylvania we do not understand, what's wrong with children in Iowa?). Those 227 offenders used in the study had committed an average of "nearly nine serious acts of violence, such as gang fighting, hitting a parent or attacking another person in the prior year."

Researchers say that their analysis of the data shows that "the frequency of play and affinity for violent games were strongly associated with delinquent and violent behavior."

Craig Anderson, (a familiar name here on GamePolitics when it comes to anti-game research) said violent video game exposure is not the sole cause of violence but it is a risk factor for children.

"Can we say from this study that Adam Lanza, or any of the others, went off and killed people because of media violence? You can’t take the stand of the NRA that it’s strictly video games and not guns," Anderson said. "You also can’t take the stand of the entertainment industry that it has nothing to do with media violence that it’s all about guns and not about media violence. They’re both wrong and they’re both right, both are causal risk factors."

Douglas Gentile (another familiar name from Iowa State) said that while the results weren't unexpected, he was surprised by them.

"I didn’t expect to see much of an effect when we got to serious delinquent and criminal level aggression because youth who commit that level of aggression have a lot of things going wrong for them. They often have a lot of risk factors and very few protective factors in their lives," Gentile said.

The study's lead author, Matt DeLisi, says that this research makes dismissing the link between violent video games and real-world violence harder:

"When critics say, ‘Well, it’s probably not video games, it’s probably how antisocial they are,’ we can address that directly because we controlled for a lot of things that we know matter," DeLisi said. "Even if you account for the child’s sex, age, race, the age they were first referred to juvenile court – which is a very powerful effect – and a bunch of other media effects, like screen time and exposure. Even with all of that, the video game measure still mattered."

Researchers also point out that juvenile offenders have several risk factors that influence their behavior and that the next step is to build on this research to determine what combination of factors is the most volatile.

"When studying serious aggression, looking at multiple risk factors matters more than looking at any one," Gentile said. "The cutting edge of research is trying to understand in what combination do the individual risk factors start influencing each other in ways to either enhance or mitigate the odds of aggression?"

Finally researchers say that parents need to be "truthful and honest" about who their children are when it comes to their "psychiatric functioning." What does this mean for parents?

"If you have a kid who is antisocial, who is a little bit vulnerable to influence, giving them something that allows them to escape into themselves for a long period of time isn’t a healthy thing," says DeLisi.

Source: Iowa State


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