Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 417–428 | Cite as

The Role of Violent Media Preference in Cumulative Developmental Risk for Violence and General Aggression

  • Paul BoxerEmail author
  • L. Rowell Huesmann
  • Brad J. Bushman
  • Maureen O’Brien
  • Dominic Moceri
Empirical Research


The impact of exposure to violence in the media on the long-term development and short-term expression of aggressive behavior has been well documented. However, gaps in this literature remain, and in particular the role of violent media exposure in shaping violent and other serious antisocial behavior has not been investigated. Further, studies of violent media effects typically have not sampled from populations with confirmed histories of violent and/or nonviolent antisocial behavior. In this study, we analyzed data on 820 youth, including 390 juvenile delinquents and 430 high school students, to examine the relation of violent media use to involvement in violence and general aggression. Using criterion scores developed through cross-informant modeling of data from self, parent/guardian, and teacher/staff reports, we observed that childhood and adolescent violent media preferences contributed significantly to the prediction of violence and general aggression from cumulative risk totals. Findings represent a new and important direction for research on the role of violent media use in the broader matrix of risk factors for youth violence.


Media Violence Delinquent Aggression Risk 



This research was supported by a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control (U49-CE000207). The authors acknowledge assistance with data collection and processing provided by Andrea Kaye, Amelia Deschamps, and the interview staff of the Aggression Research Program. The authors extend appreciation to the youth, families, teachers, and agency staff who provided data for this investigation.


  1. Anderson, C. A., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, R. L., Johnson, J., Linz, D., et al. (2003). The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 81–110. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-1006.2003.pspi_1433.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353–359. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00366.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D. A., & Buckley, K. E. (2007). Violent video game effects on children and adolescents. New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, C. A., Lindsay, J. J., & Bushman, B. J. (1999). Research in the psychological laboratory: Truth or triviality? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 3–9. doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.00002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Appleyard, K., Egeland, B., van Dulmen, M. H. M., & Sroufe, L. A. (2005). When more is not better: The role of cumulative risk in child behavior outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 46, 235–245. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00351.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Attar, B. K., Guerra, N. G., & Tolan, P. H. (1994). Neighborhood disadvantage, stressful life events, and adjustment in urban elementaryschool children. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 23, 391400.Google Scholar
  7. Borum, R., & Verhaagen, D. A. (2006). Assessing and managing violence risk in juveniles. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  8. Boxer, P. (2007). Aggression in very high-risk youth: Examining developmental risk in an inpatient psychiatric population. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77, 636–646. doi: 10.1037/0002-9432.77.4.636.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boxer, P., Edwards-Leeper, L., Goldstein, S. E., Musher-Eizenman, D., & Dubow, E. F. (2003). Exposure to “low-level” aggression in school: Associations with aggressive behavior, future expectations, and perceived safety. Violence and Victims, 18, 691–705.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Boxer, P., & Frick, P. J. (2008). Treating conduct disorder, aggression, and antisocial behavior in children and adolescents: An integrated view. In R. Steele, M. Roberts, & T. D. Elkin (Eds.), Handbook of evidence-based therapies for children and adolescents. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Boxer, P., Gullan, R. L., & Mahoney, A. (in press). Adolescents’ physical aggression towards parents in a clinically referred sample. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.Google Scholar
  12. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A. (2001). Media violence and the American public: Scientific facts versus media misinformation. The American Psychologist, 56, 477–489. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.6-7.477.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bushman, B. J., & Huesmann, L. R. (2006). Short-term and long-term effects of violent media on aggression in children and adults. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 160, 348–352. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.160.4.348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bushman, B. J., Huesmann, L. R., Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D. A., O'Brien, M., Moceri, D. et al. (2008, March). The relation of violent video game play to aggressive behavior and cognition in adolescence. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Chicago.Google Scholar
  16. Buss, A. H., & Perry, M. (1992). The aggression questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 452–459. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.63.3.452.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carmines, E., & Zeller, R. (1979). Reliability and validity assessment. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  18. Christakis, D. A., & Zimmerman, F. J. (2007). Violent television viewing during preschool is associated with antisocial behavior during school age. Pediatrics, 120, 993–999. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-3244.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Crowley, K. (2008). Video villains come to life. New York Post, 26 June 2008. Accessed 30 June 2008.
  20. Derogatis, L. R. (1992). Administration, scoring, and procedures manual for the brief symptom inventory II. Baltimore: Clinical Psychometric Research.Google Scholar
  21. Dodge, K. A., Coie, J. D., & Lynam, D. (2006). Aggression and antisocial behavior in youth. In W. Damon & N. Eisenberg (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 719–788). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Dodge, K. A., & Pettit, G. S. (2003). A biopsychosocial model of the development of chronic conduct problems in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 39, 349–371. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.2.349.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Elliott, D. S., & Huizinga, D. (1983). Social class and delinquent behavior in a national youth panel: 1976–1980. Criminology, 2(1), 149–177. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1983.tb00256.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Eron, L. D., Huesmann, L. R., Lefkowitz, M. M., & Walder, L. O. (1972). Does television violence cause aggression? The American Psychologist, 27, 253–263. doi: 10.1037/h0033721.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Espelage, D. L., Holt, M. K., & Henkel, R. R. (2003). Examination of peer-group contextual effects on aggression during early adolescence. Child Development, 74, 205–220. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00531.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Essau, C. A., Sasagawa, S., & Frick, P. J. (2006). Callous-unemotional traits in a community sample of adolescents. Assessment, 13, 454–469. doi: 10.1177/1073191106287354.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Evans, G. W. (2003). A multimethodological analysis of cumulative risk and allostatic load among rural children. Developmental Psychology, 39, 924–933. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.5.924.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Farrington, D. P., & Loeber, R. (2000). Some benefits of dichotomization in psychiatric and criminological research. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 10, 102–122. doi: 10.1002/cbm.349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Frick, P. J. (2004). Inventory of callous-unemotional traits. Unpublished rating scale. University of New Orleans.Google Scholar
  30. Frick, P. J. (2006). Developmental pathways to conduct disorder. Child Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 15, 311–332.Google Scholar
  31. Frick, P. J., Cornell, A. H., Bodin, S. D., Dane, H. A., Barry, C. T., & Loney, B. R. (2003). Callous-unemotional traits and developmental pathways to severe conduct problems. Developmental Psychology, 39, 246–260. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.2.246.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Frick, P., & Morris, A. S. (2004). Temperament and developmental pathways to severe conduct problems. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33, 54–68. doi: 10.1207/S15374424JCCP3301_6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gentile, D. A., & Sesma, A. (2003). Developmental approaches to understanding media effects on individuals. In D. A. Gentile (Ed.), Media violence and children: A complete guide for parents and professionals (pp. 19–37). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  34. Goodman, R. (2001). Psychometric properties of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40, 1337–1345. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200111000-00015.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Guerra, N. G., Boxer, P., & Kim, T. (2005). A cognitive-ecological approach to serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders: Application to aggressive behavior. Behavioral Disorders, 30, 277–288.Google Scholar
  36. Guerra, N. G., Eron, L. D., Huesmann, L. R., Tolan, P., & Van Acker, R. (1997). A cognitive/ecological approach to the prevention and mitigation of violence and aggression in inner city youth. In D. Fry & K. Bjorkqvist (Eds.), Cultural variation in conflict resolution: Alternatives to violence (pp. 199–214). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  37. Guerra, N. G., & Huesmann, L. R. (2004). A cognitive-ecological model of aggression. Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 2, 177–204.Google Scholar
  38. Guerra, N. G., Huesmann, L. R., & Spindler, A. (2003). Community violence exposure, social cognition, and aggression among urban elementary school children. Child Development, 74, 1561–1576. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00623.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gutman, L. M., Sameroff, A. J., & Cole, R. (2003). Academic trajectories from first to twelfth grades: Growth curves according to multiple risk and early child factors. Developmental Psychology, 39, 777–790. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.4.777.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Henggeler, S. W., Schoenwald, S. K., Borduin, C. M., Roweland, M. D., & Cunningham, P. B. (1998). Multisystemic treatment of antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  41. Hoge, R. D., Guerra, N. G., & Boxer, P. (Eds.). (2008). Treating the juvenile offender. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  42. Huesmann, L. R. (1986). Psychological processes promoting the relation between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior by the viewer. The Journal of Social Issues, 42(3), 125–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Huesmann, L. R., & Eron, L. D. (1989). Individual differences and the trait of aggression. European Journal of Personality, 3, 95–106. doi: 10.1002/per.2410030204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Huesmann, L. R., Eron, L. D., Guerra, N. G., & Crawshaw, V. B. (1994). Measuring children’s aggression with teachers’ predictions of peer-nominations. Psychological Assessment, 6, 329–336. doi: 10.1037/1040-3590.6.4.329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Huesmann, L. R., Eron, L. D., & Yarmel, P. W. (1987). Intellectual functioning and aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 232–240. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.52.1.232.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Huesmann, L. R., Lagerspetz, K., & Eron, L. D. (1984). Intervening variables in the television violence-aggression relation: Evidence from two countries. Developmental Psychology, 20(5), 746–775. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.20.5.746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Huesmann, L. R., Moise-Titus, J., Podolski, C., & Eron, L. D. (2003). Longitudinal relations between children’s exposure to television violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood: 1977–1992. Developmental Psychology, 39, 201–222. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.2.201.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Institute of Medicine. (1994). Reducing risks for mental disorders: Frontiers for preventive intervention research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  49. Kimonis, E. R., Frick, P. J., Skeem, J., Marsee, M. A., Cruise, K., Munoz, L. C., et al. (in press). Assessing callous-unemotional traits in adolescent offenders: Validation of the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. Journal of the International Association of Psychiatry and Law.Google Scholar
  50. Knox, M., King, C., Hanna, G. L., Logan, D., & Ghaziuddin, N. (2000). Aggressive behavior in clinically depressed adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 611–618. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200005000-00015.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Konijn, E. A., Nije Bijvank, M., & Bushman, B. J. (2007). I wish I were a warrior: The role of wishful identification in effects of violent video games on aggression in adolescent boys. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1038–1044.Google Scholar
  52. Lefkowitz, M. M., Eron, L. D., & Walder, L. O. (1977). Growing up to be violent: A longitudinal study of the development of aggression. New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  53. McCloskey, L. A., Figueredo, A. J., & Koss, M. P. (1995). The effects of systemic family violence on children’s mental health. Child Development, 66, 1239–1261. doi: 10.2307/1131645.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McMahon, R. J., & Frick, P. J. (2005). Evidence-based assessment of conduct problems in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 477–505. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp3403_6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Metropolitan Area Research Group, Eron, L. D., Huesmann, L. R., Spindler, A., Guerra, N. G., Henry, D., et al. (2002). A cognitive/ecological approach to preventing aggression in urban settings: Initial outcomes for high risk children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(1), 179–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Musher-Eizenman, D., Boxer, P., Danner, S., Dubow, E. F., Goldstein, S. E., & Heretick, D. M. L. (2004). Social-cognitive mediators of the relation of environmental and emotion regulation factors to children’s aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 30, 389–408. doi: 10.1002/ab.20078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ritter, D., & Eslea, M. (2005). Hot sauce, toy guns, and graffiti: A critical account of current laboratory aggression paradigms. Aggressive Behavior, 31, 407–419. doi: 10.1002/ab.20066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rutter, M. (1979). Protective factors in children’s responses to stress and disadvantage. In M. W. Kent & E. J. Rolf (Eds.), Primary prevention of psychopathology: Social competence in children (Vol. 3, pp. 49–74). Hanover, NH: University of New England Press.Google Scholar
  59. Sameroff, A. J. (2000). Dialectical processes in developmental psychopathology. In A. Sameroff, M. Lewis, & S. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of developmental psychopathology (2nd ed., pp. 23–40). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.Google Scholar
  60. Schwartz, D., & Proctor, L. J. (2000). Community violence exposure and children’s social adjustment in the school peer group: The mediating roles of emotion regulation and social cognition. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 670–683. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.68.4.670.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stipek, D. J. (1998). Pathways to constructive lives: The importance of early school success. In A. C. Bohart & D. J. Stipek (Eds.), Constructive and destructive behaviors: Implications for family, school, & society (pp. 291–315). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  62. Surgeon, U.S. General’s Office. (2001). Youth violence: A report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC: Surgeon General.Google Scholar
  63. Surgeon, U.S. General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television, Social Behavior. (1972). Television and growing up: The impact of televised violence. Washington, DC: Surgeon General.Google Scholar
  64. Viemero, V. (1996). Factors in childhood that predict later criminal behavior. Aggressive Behavior, 22(2), 87–98. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337(1996)22:2<87::AID-AB2>3.0.CO;2-R.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wilkinson, G. S. (1993). Wide range achievement test (3rd ed.). Wilmington, DE: Wide Range.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Boxer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • L. Rowell Huesmann
    • 2
  • Brad J. Bushman
    • 2
    • 3
  • Maureen O’Brien
    • 2
  • Dominic Moceri
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRutgers UniversityNewarkUSA
  2. 2.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.VU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations