The issue of children’s exposure to violent video games has been a source of considerable debate for several decades. Questions persist whether children with pre-existing mental health problems may be influenced adversely by exposure to violent games, even if other children are not. We explored this issue with 377 children (62 % female, mixed ethnicity, mean age = 12.93) displaying clinically elevated attention deficit or depressive symptoms on the Pediatric Symptom Checklist. Results from our study found no evidence for increased bullying or delinquent behaviors among youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms who also played violent video games. Our results did not support the hypothesis that children with elevated mental health symptoms constitute a “vulnerable” population for video game violence effects. Implications and suggestions for further research are provided.
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We note the issue that some research reports insinuate links between violent games and aggression, where their data fail to support such insinuations. We note that in Shibuya et al. 2008, in their Table 2, the video game exposure by violence presence variable is associated with a reduction in aggression in boys, but not girls. For Ybarra et al. (2008) the null effect for violent video games is noted in their Figure 2, although they largely ignore their own results to imply links between violent games and youth aggression. These papers highlight the need to closely examine research results when understanding the true implications of a research study. The rhetoric employed by scholars in their abstracts and discussion sections does not always match their data.
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CJF conducted the main analyses for the paper and wrote the initial draft. CO collected the data an contributed to revising drafts of this paper. Both authors participated equally in conceiving and designing the analyses. Both authors read and approved of the final manuscript.
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Ferguson, C.J., Olson, C.K. Video Game Violence Use Among “Vulnerable” Populations: The Impact of Violent Games on Delinquency and Bullying Among Children with Clinically Elevated Depression or Attention Deficit Symptoms. J Youth Adolescence 43, 127–136 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9986-5
- Video games
- Mental health