Aggressive Video Games are Not a Risk Factor for Future Aggression in Youth: A Longitudinal Study

Abstract

The issue of whether video games with aggressive or violent content (henceforth aggressive video games) contribute to aggressive behavior in youth remains an issue of significant debate. One issue that has been raised is that some studies may inadvertently inflate effect sizes by use of questionable researcher practices and unstandardized assessments of predictors and outcomes, or lack of proper theory-driven controls. In the current article, a large sample of 3034 youth (72.8% male Mage = 11.2) in Singapore were assessed for links between aggressive game play and seven aggression or prosocial outcomes 2 years later. Theoretically relevant controls for prior aggression, poor impulse control, gender and family involvement were used. Effect sizes were compared to six nonsense outcomes specifically chosen to be theoretically unrelated to aggressive game play. The use of nonsense outcomes allows for a comparison of effect sizes between theoretically relevant and irrelevant outcomes, to help assess whether any statistically significant outcomes may be spurious in large datasets. Preregistration was employed to reduce questionable researcher practices. Results indicate that aggressive video games were unrelated to any of the outcomes using the study criteria for significance. It would take 27 h/day of M-rated game play to produce clinically noticeable changes in aggression. Effect sizes for aggression/prosocial outcomes were little different than for nonsense outcomes. Evidence from this study does not support the conclusion that aggressive video games are a predictor of later aggression or reduced prosocial behavior in youth.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There is a separate debate about whether the commonly used term “violent video game” is appropriately scholarly, or emotionally evocative and prejudicial. Other terms such as Kinetic Video Game, Conflict Oriented Game or Aggressive Video Game may be less visceral and more scholarly. The current article used the last option for this paper but it is suggested that scholars consider move away from the term “violent video game.”

  2. 2.

    The authors of this paper initially claimed a consensus, but evidence from the data suggests otherwise. Etchells and Chambers (2014) and Ivory et al. (2015) both noted this misrepresentation.

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Authors' Contributions

C.J.F. performed the data analyses and co-wrote the draft of the manuscript; C.K.J.W. conceived of the study, was co-PI on the original grant, conducted data collection and statistical analyses, and cowrote the draft of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This project is supported by the Ministry of Education, Singapore and Media Development Authority (Project #EPI/06AK).

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Data are available from the second author upon reasonable request.

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Ferguson, C.J., Wang, J.C.K. Aggressive Video Games are Not a Risk Factor for Future Aggression in Youth: A Longitudinal Study. J Youth Adolescence 48, 1439–1451 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01069-0

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Keywords

  • Video games
  • Aggression
  • Violence
  • Preregistration