A national study finds that a sizable majority of media researchers and parents, and the vast majority of pediatricians, generally agree that exposure to violent media can increase aggression in children.

Ohio State University researchers found a broad consensus in the belief that children’s aggressive behavior can be fueled by viewing violent video games, movies, TV programs, and Internet sites.

Specifically, 66 percent of researchers, 67 percent of parents, and 90 percent of pediatricians agree or strongly agree that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior among children.

Interestingly, the groups failed to reach a majority opinion on whether violent comic books or literature would have harmful effects on children.

Nevertheless, the perceived link between violent media and aggressive behavior in children is strong.

“Some people claim there is no consensus about whether violent media can increase aggression in children, but this study shows that there is consensus,” said Brad Bushman, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

“As in most areas of research, there is not complete agreement. But we found the overwhelming majority of media researchers, parents, and pediatricians agree that violent media is harmful to children.”

The study by Bushman, doctoral student Carlos Cruz, and Dr. Mario Gollwitzer, a professor at Philipps University Marburg in Germany, appears online in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Bushman noted that while 66 percent of researchers agreed or strongly agreed that violent video games increased aggression, only 17 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. The remaining 17 percent were undecided.

“That means that among researchers who have an opinion, eight out of 10 agree that violent games increase aggression,” Bushman said. “That’s hardly a controversy.”

Researchers surveyed 371 media psychologists and communication scientists from three professional organizations.

They also queried 92 members of the Council on Communication and Media of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a nationally representative sample of 268 American parents.

Additional findings revealed that a majority of researchers, pediatricians, and parents agreed that there is a causal relationship between exposure to violent media and aggressive behavior. But the three groups disagreed as to whether media violence was a major factor in real-life violence.

“That finding is not surprising,” Bushman said, “but it underscores one of the important implications of this study.”

“With the general consensus about the harmful effects of media violence, it may seem surprising that some people still question the effects of violent media on aggression,” Bushman said.

“One important reason is that people don’t distinguish between aggression and violence.”

“Violent acts are rare,” he said, “and are caused by many factors acting together.”

“You cannot predict a shooting rampage just based on exposure to violent media or any other single factor,” Bushman said.

“But the evidence is clear,” he said, “that exposure to violent media can predict less serious forms of aggression.”

Bushman believes the following factors fuel the ongoing debate on the effect of violent media:

  • journalists report violent media research in a way that increases uncertainty;
  • media industries have a vested interest in keeping the public uncertain about the link between violent media and aggression;
  • the motivation of violent media consumers to deny they are affected;
  • And a few media researchers repeatedly claim that violent media do not increase aggression.
  • Source: Ohio State University