Study: Violent Media Not A Predictor Of Criminal Behavior

By James Dohnert , Updated May 23, 2013 04:22 PM EDT

Latchkey kids everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. A recent study from the University of Texas A&M finds that watching violent media as a child does not make a person more prone to criminal activity as an adult. The study comes as politicians and the media continue to question whether violent video games lead to violent real-world behavior.

The study uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to gauge whether watching violent media made people more prone to being arrested in adulthood. The study finds that genetics and socioeconomic upbringing were more likely to cause criminal behavior than violent media. According to the study, certain genetic makeup coupled with harsh upbringings put people at heightened risk for criminal behavior in adulthood.

"Genetics alone don't seem to trigger criminal behavior, but in combination with harsh upbringing, you can see negative outcomes. In our sample, experiencing maternal warmth seemed to reduce the impact of genetics on adult criminality," Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson, Texas A&M International University Associate Professor of Psychology, wrote in his study.

Dr. Ferguson's study comes as many commentators are blaming violent video games and movies for violent behavior. Discussions on implementing a violent video game tax have recently picked up momentum. 

Vice President Joe Biden told a group of religious representatives that the implementation of such a tax would be considered if an in-depth study was published showing a correlation between violent media and real-life behavior. Dr. Ferguson says that his study shows no correlation. He writes that commentators may object to the content of some media but that doesn't mean it causes real-world violence.

"People may object morally to some of the content that exists in the media, but the question is whether the media can predict criminal behavior. The answer seems to be no," he continues.

Not all studies have come to the same conclusion as the one Dr. Ferguson published. The Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine recently published a study which found that violent media desensitize teens. According to the study, playing violent video games led to an increase of anxiety and a poorer level of sleep.

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