International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 267–276 | Cite as

Can clans protect adolescent players of massively multiplayer online games from violent behaviors?

  • Michele L. Ybarra
  • danah boyd
Original Article



To examine whether clan membership mediates observed associations between violent game content and externalizing behaviors among youth who play massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs).


Responses from 486 11- to 18-year-olds who: live in the United States, read English, have been online at least once in the past 6 months, and have played MMOGs in the past year were examined. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate the population-averaged incident rate ratio of aggressive, delinquent, and seriously violent behaviors among MMOG players given one’s self-reported exposure to in-game content depicting violence.


Twenty-nine percent of all youth respondents played MMOGs in the past year. Rates of aggressive, IRR: 1.59, 95 % CI [1.11, 2.26], and delinquent, IRR: 1.44, 95 % CI [0.99, 2.08], behaviors were significantly higher for MMOG players who were in clans versus not in clans. For females, clan membership attenuated but did not eliminate the observed relation between exposure to in-game violent content and both aggressive and seriously violent behavior (16 % and 10 % reductions in IRR, respectively); whereas for males, clan membership was largely uninfluential (i.e., less than 2 % change).


Clan membership is neither associated with lower rates of externalizing behaviors for youth, nor does it affect the likelihood of reporting externalizing behaviors among male players. There is some suggestion that clan membership may attenuate the concurrent association between in-game violent content and some externalizing behaviors for females.


Adolescents Violent video games Clans MMOGs Violent behavior 



We would like to thank Ms. Michelle Carras for her contributions to previous drafts and Ms. Emilie Chen for her help finalizing revised drafts. We also would like to thank the entire Growing up with Media study team from Center for Innovative Public Health Research (formerly Internet Solutions for Kids), Harris Interactive, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who contributed to the planning and implementation of the study. We thank the families for their time and willingness to participate in this study. This work was supported by the CDC [U49/CE000206]. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Innovative Public Health ResearchSan ClementeUSA
  2. 2.Microsoft ResearchNew YorkUSA

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