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Parental Emotions Influence the Play-Time of Violent Video Games

Parental Emotions Influence the Play-Time of Violent Video Games

A new study finds that parents who are more anxious and emotional can prolong the amount of violent video games their children play.

Russell Laczniak, a professor of marketing at Iowa State University, says given the harmful effects of violent video games, he and his colleagues wanted to better understand how parents influence children’s behavior.

Their findings were insightful as parents who were more warm and restrictive were successful in limiting children’s play of violent video games. However, highly emotional and anxious parents had the opposite effect — their children played more.

The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs.

“It’s not surprising that warmer and more restrictive parents, or what we call authoritative, are most effective at reducing the amount of violent video games played by their children,” Laczniak said.

“If parents are more anxious, their message is not as well received by their children and it inhibits what they’re trying to do. It’s pretty clear from our study that’s what’s happening with kids playing violent video games.”

Researchers found the emotional influence affected all children, but it was stronger for boys and first-born. This was not entirely surprising considering parents tend to be more anxious with their first child, Laczniak said.

Investigators specifically surveyed eight to 12-year-old children, because this is an impressionable time in their lives and an age when many children start playing video games.

“At this age, kids become more vulnerable to outside influences and their peers. As a result, people sometimes question whether parents can still have an impact,” Laczniak said.

“Our results pretty strongly suggest that they can, even among this group in which peer influences are starting to take over and have a stronger impact.”

The study included 237 sets of caregivers and children who completed the online survey. Researchers asked parents (or guardians) and children to answer the questions separately. The majority of adult respondents, nearly 48 percent, identified themselves as mothers; 38 percent were fathers and the remainder was grandparents or other guardians.

Three dimensions of parental styles — warm, restrictive and anxious-emotional — were examined for the study.

In the paper, researchers explained that warm parents tend to refrain from physical discipline and show approval through affection. Restrictive parents set and enforce firm rules for the household. Anxious-emotional parents are often overprotective and show elevated emotions when interacting with their children.

Laczniak says the research team expected children with warm or restrictive parents would spend less time playing violent video games. However, they were surprised to see the impact of anxious-emotional parents.

He and his colleagues included this dimension based on past studies, which found that children of anxious-emotional parents tend to have more problems.

Researchers believe the lesson to be learned from their study is that parents should set limits and be more calmly detached in the relations with their children.

“If parents want to reduce the amount of violent video games that their kids play, be warm when dealing with them, but somewhat restrictive at the same time, and set rules and those rules will work,” Laczniak said.

“For parents, who are more anxious, the rules become less effective and those kids are going to play more.”

Source: Iowa State University

Parental Emotions Influence the Play-Time of Violent Video Games

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Parental Emotions Influence the Play-Time of Violent Video Games. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 9 Oct 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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