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Violent games affect behaviour in young children, say researchers

A study presented to the American Psychological Association conference in Washington last Friday suggests that playing violent games may cause heightened aggressive behaviour in young children.

A study presented to the American Psychological Association conference in Washington last Friday suggests that playing violent games may cause heightened aggressive behaviour in young children.

The study, presented by Jessica Nicoll and Kevin Kieffer of Saint Leo University, did not actually feature any new research, but instead collated data from a number of previous studies into the question.

While the researchers do suggest that most evidence points to behavioural problems with children who play violent games, they admit that their conclusions are not definite, and that much work remains to be done in this field.

"We didn't really come up with 'this is the one definite conclusion'," Kieffer told US website GameSpot. "It's just 'the preponderance of the evidence suggests...'"

Among the evidence cited by the researchers is a study where young people playing violent games were more violent immediately afterwards, while in another study, school teachers reported that children playing such games were overall more violent.

However, Kieffer admits that in cases where killings have been linked to playing violent games, the perpetrators almost certainly had other psychological problems - which presumably won't be present in the vast majority of players.

"We need to look at the personality correlates of the people who play these violent games, who are most attracted to them, or who don't just play them for pleasure," he said. "Is there something about these people who play these games that's suggestive of future consequences or events that's a cause for concern?"

While the majority of studies related to the effects of violent games on young children, in the USA all such games carry ESRB rating labels warning parents about their content, and many retailers will not sell unsuitable games to minors - while here in the UK, it is a criminal offence to sell an 18-rated videogame to anyone under that age.

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Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.