New research has found that playing violent video games does not cause teens with symptoms of depression or attention deficit disorder to become aggressive bullies or delinquents. According to researchers, the impact of violent video games such as Mortal Kombat, Halo and Grand Theft Auto (GTA) has been overstated.
The study was conducted by Drs. Christopher Ferguson and Cheryl Olson, who studied 377 children with an average age of 13 years from various ethnic groups who had clinically elevated attention deficit or depressive symptoms, according to Rick Nauert of Psych Central. The research was part of an existing large federally funded project that examines the effect of video game violence on youths.
The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found that the playing violent video games actually had a very slight calming effect on youths with attention deficit symptoms — and helped to reduce aggressive and bullying behavior.
The study is important in light of ongoing public debate as to whether or not violent video games fuel behavioral aggression and societal violence among youths, especially among those with pre-existing mental health problems. Societal violence includes behavior such as bullying, physical fighting, criminal assaults and even homicide. And the news media often draws a link from the playing of violent video games to the perpetrators of school shootings in the United States.
The research revealed that violent video games do not increase aggression in youths who have a predisposition to mental health problems. The researchers found no association between the playing of violent video games and subsequent increased delinquent criminality or bullying in children with either clinically elevated depressive or attention deficit symptoms.
The study’s conclusions call for a change in general perceptions about the influence of violent video games. Ferguson and Olson, however, noted that findings could not be generalized to extreme cases such as mass homicides.
“Despite the fear that violent video games may have instigated horrific behaviors by high-risk teens to senselessly take innocent lives, the evidence does not support the apprehension.” Regarding concerns about some young mass homicide perpetrators having played violent video games, Ferguson said” “Statistically speaking, it would actually be more unusual if a youth delinquent or shooter did not play violent video games, given that the majority of youth and young men play such games at least occasionally.”