Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 388–400 | Cite as

The Impact of Degree of Exposure to Violent Video Games, Family Background, and Other Factors on Youth Violence

  • Whitney DeCampEmail author
  • Christopher J. Ferguson
Empirical Research


Despite decades of study, no scholarly consensus has emerged regarding whether violent video games contribute to youth violence. Some skeptics contend that small correlations between violent game play and violence-related outcomes may be due to other factors, which include a wide range of possible effects from gender, mental health, and social influences. The current study examines this issue with a large and diverse (49 % white, 21 % black, 18 % Hispanic, and 12 % other or mixed race/ethnicity; 51 % female) sample of youth in eighth (n = 5133) and eleventh grade (n = 3886). Models examining video game play and violence-related outcomes without any controls tended to return small, but statistically significant relationships between violent games and violence-related outcomes. However, once other predictors were included in the models and once propensity scores were used to control for an underlying propensity for choosing or being allowed to play violent video games, these relationships vanished, became inverse, or were reduced to trivial effect sizes. These results offer further support to the conclusion that video game violence is not a meaningful predictor of youth violence and, instead, support the conclusion that family and social variables are more influential factors.


Video games Violence Aggression Propensity scores Adolescence 



We wish to thank the anonymous peer reviewers for their helpful insights and contributions to this work.

Authors’ Contributions

WD conceived of the study, obtained the data, participated in the design, conducted some statistical analyses, and drafted some sections of the manuscript; CF participated in the design, conducted some statistical analyses, and drafted some sections of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study received no grants or funding. The data used in this research were collected by the University of Delaware Center for Drug and Health Studies as part of a project supported by the Delaware Health Fund and by the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, DE Health and Social Services.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The data used in this study were collected under a protocol approved by the University of Delaware Institutional Review Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA
  2. 2.Stetson UniversityDeLandUSA

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