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Violent Video Games Don't Predict Aggressive Behavior

FRIDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to violent video games or television shows is not a strong predictor of aggression or violence among youth, says a new study from Texas A&M International University.

Instead, it found that depression influences children and teens levels of aggression and violence.

The study's dismissal of violent video games as a risk factor in aggression contrasts to some other recent findings, including an analysis of 130 studies on video games and violence released in March by researchers at Iowa State University and colleagues. That analysis concluded the evidence strongly suggests that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and behaviors and reduces empathy.

The new study included 302 mostly Hispanic youthS, ageD 10 to 14, in a small U.S. city on the border with Mexico. The participants were interviewed at the start of the study and again 12 months later.

The initial interviews revealed that 75 percent of the participants played video games within the past month, and 40 percent played games with violent content. Boys were more likely than girls to play violent games.

At the follow-up interview, 7 percent of the young people reported engaging in at least one criminally violent act during the previous 12 months. The most common types of violent acts were physically assaulting other students or using force to take an object or money from someone else.

The study also found that 19 percent of the youth took part in at least one nonviolent crime, such as shoplifting, over the same period.

After the researchers adjusted for such variables as exposure to domestic violence, bullying and depressive symptoms, they found exposure to violence in video games or television was not a strong predictor of aggressive behavior or rule-breaking, concluded investigator Dr. Christopher Ferguson, of Texas A&M International University.

However, depressive symptoms were a strong predictor for aggression and rule breaking and their influence was particularly strong in young people with preexisting antisocial personality disorders.

"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. 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 wrote.

The study was published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

More information

The American Psychological Association outlines warning signs of youth violence.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of Youth and Adolescence, news release, Dec. 14, 2010

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