The current research study looks at the impact of violent video games on adolescent aggression, with the assumption that higher consumption rates of violent video game media is a predictor of aggressive behavior in adolescents. This field of research has been a global concern since the 1920s, due to the introduction of regularly programmed television, because of the fear that media violence would preserve actual violence in the real world (Anderson et. al, 2003). Since then, “research points ‘overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children’” (2003). The previous work completed in this field focuses on many different types of media and the influence they have on violent youth behavior from various social settings. None of the literature reviewed for this manuscript had looked at the single influence of violent video games on specific types of violent behavior (such as physical, emotional, or verbal aggression). Yet, it is known that, children are the target consumers for violent video game marketers (Jipguep et. al, 2003). Research of this nature will provide additional insight on the depth of the problem and possible practices which can be implemented in the future to aid in minimizing the extent of parental concern regarding adolescent aggression.
This research also suggested possible links between media violence and increased aggression, psychological trauma, and other psychological and behavioral consequences. Anderson et. al noted that the introduction of interactive media changed the way and frequency that children are exposed to media violence (2003). Children are more vulnerable now than ever because of unsupervised access to violent video games. Anderson et. al’s meta-analysis of previous research demonstrated that aggression during adolescents is the best single predictor of violent behavior in adulthood. Therefore, the influence of violent media consumption as a child could promote and contribute to increasingly violent behavior later in adult life.
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A longitudinal study done by Hopf et. al aimed to answer questions about the long-term effects of media violence on children, but their study only spanned a two-year period (2008). Longitudinal studies in this field are a good source of information about the precise impact media violence has on adolescents throughout life; however, only few have been done because of expense and other complications. The study concluded that aggressiveness can be a predictor of interest in media violence, and that the amount of exposure to media violence stimulates increased rates of aggression for both boys and girls after a two-year period. Hopf et. al used the General Aggression Model, or GAM, as the unifying framework for their study.
According to Anderson et. al, the GAM can be applied to a wide variety of violence outside of the laboratory and acts as the overarching framework for understanding aggression and violence (2011). This conceptual framework for this model was created using information and data from many mini-theories to produce a complete understanding to the concept of aggression and violence outside of the laboratory. The GAM generated three critical stages in a single episodic cycle of aggression that aid in understanding the aggressive acts. The three stages are: (1) person and situational input, (2) present internal states, and (3) outcomes of appraisal and decision-making processes. The information gathered from GAM accounts for a wide variety of effects seen in literature pertaining to media violence.
The literature reviewed suggests that there is a clear connection between violent media, specifically interactive media (i.e. violent video games), and aggression in adolescents. But the literature also suggests that violent media is not the only influential factor. There is overwhelming support that other social, emotional, or situational factors could also be at play and stimulate youth aggression. For example, further research also links violent behaviors to family income and academic performance (Potera, 2011). This study found that children raised in a house with an annual income at or below $20,000 were 1.6 times more likely to participate in violent acts (i.e. a fight at school) than children raised in a house with an annual income of more than $75,000. Likewise, children who perform academically at a D average were 3 times more likely to be involved in aggressive acts than students with A averages.
The study at hand is designed to be a correlational study assessing two variables: frequency rates of consumption for violent video games, and the impact on the frequency and kind of aggressive behaviors committed by the participant. The dependent variable has three levels to enhance statistical analysis and provide more information on the extent of the influence these violent games have on the participant. The terms violence, violent behavior, aggression, and aggressive behavior will be used synonymously in this study. Let them be defined as any act towards another person that is specifically to intend harm regardless of the extreme. The three levels of aggressive behavior that will be assessed are acts of verbal aggression, emotional aggression, or physical aggression. Demographic data will be collected, prior to the study, and used for a more in-depth analysis of the results.
The target group of participants for the current study would be children ranging in ages from eleven to eighteen. The population of participants studied would be in grade school through high school and would come from varying backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and religions. However, all the participants would come from the mid-western United States, specifically Northern Ohio. This study would utilize stratified sampling to reduce bias and ensure there are enough participants from each grade level. The number of participants this study aims to engage is approximately 20 students from each respective grade. However, the participants would not be expected to come from the same school or school district.
The study will be conducted and recorded using both qualitative and quantitative surveys that are to be completed by both the participants (if able), parents, and teachers. Participants would be asked to fill out a demographic questionnaire so that data may be used to further analyze and interpret results. The second questionnaire would be a paper frequency questionnaire about the type of violent video game they tend to play, how often, and for what amount of time. The final questionnaire would be another paper frequency questionnaire about the rate of aggressive outbursts they experienced and what kind of aggressive act they committed. The information and calculations will be analyzed utilizing a statistics program such as SPSS.
Parents will first be asked to assist participants (if necessary) in completing a qualitative paper survey at the beginning of the experiment that is designed to collect demographic data about the participants. This form would be filled out in the lab, or in the field, wherever the participants feel the most comfortable. This form would ask questions about basic demographic data, such as sex, age, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc. The information provided on this form would simply be used to better understand the participants we obtained, and the various types of social factors that are present in their lives that may stimulate or compound aggressive behavior.
Next, participants, parents, and teachers will be asked to truthfully and honestly record and submit frequency forms of each participant’s behavior, throughout the course of each week, over a three-month period. As stated above, there would be separate forms for each variable. The first frequency form, regarding violent video game usage, would be used to collect data about the participant’s violent video game habits. It would explicitly ask the participant to record each encounter that they played a violent video game, and the amount of time they spent playing, over a one-week period. The participants would be expected to submit a new form every week, throughout the duration of the three-month study, for a total of 12 forms.
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Participants would be expected to submit another frequency form, at the end of each week, pertaining to any of the three predetermined aggressive outbursts they might have experienced during the week. The three categories or levels of this variable would be emotional, verbal, or physical aggression. They would also be asked to record brief descriptions of each outburst, so the experimenters can decide if it was categorized correctly. A total of 12 of these forms would be collected by the end of the three-month period.
Finally, these forms will be collected, and each participant will be re-administered a new form, at the end of each week to improve submission rates. Participants will be asked to bring the forms into the lab, so a weekly check-in can occur. Members of the research team would ask participants questions about their answers, and how truthful and accurate the participants feel about that week’s responses. None of this information will be recorded, it would simply be a time to check-in and make sure things are going well. By the end of the study, each participant should have a total of 25 forms in their file. The data will then be transferred into numerical frequencies, or tallies, and entered into a computer statistics program.
Results of this study will be expressed using the quantitative and qualitative information provided and submitted on the respective forms. The quantitative data for the independent variable will pertain to the participant’s frequency of encounters with violent video games in a given week. Participants would receive a score of one for each time they played a violent video game in the week. They would receive an extra point if the time spent playing the game was greater than one hour, in one sitting.
Likewise, participants would receive a score of one, for each aggressive outburst they experienced during the duration of the entire experiment. Correlations between the variables would be calculated using SPSS and Pearson’s r. Calculating the correlation using Pearson’s r would produce a precise numerical value that demonstrates the exact effect that playing violent video games has on aggressive behavior. As stated earlier, the correlational value, or r value, is expected to be a positive number between zero and one. The specific value of the calculated correlation would represent the strength of the anticipated correlation. A score closer to one would demonstrate a strong correlation, while a score closer to zero, would demonstrate a weak correlation.
The expected outcome of the proposed study is that violent video games would influence and stimulate aggressive behavior in children consumers. This means, the proposed study would be expected to produce a medium to strong correlation which would demonstrate a medium to strong correlation between violent video games and adolescent aggression. The predicted result is based on one of the conclusions from the meta-analysis done by Anderson et. al which states, “the research base [for this field of interest] is large, diverse, and consistent in overall findings” (2003). The only difference between the proposed study and other similar studies is the independent variables. Most studies look at violent media overall, while the proposed study investigates only one source of violent media. Similarly, research findings published by Hopf et. al suggest that media violence and aggression are mutually related in the fact the aggressiveness predicts increased consumption of violent media, while consumption of violent media also predicts higher aggression rates, for both boys and girls (2008). Results from the proposed study would contribute to the existing knowledge base on violent media and the influence it has over adolescents because it would look at one specific type of media consumption. Their research also hypothesized that early exposure to media violence is a strong predictor of increased consumption of violent media later in life. This hypothesis was partially confirmed with statistical support that early exposure to media violence predicts both, an increase in later exposure and delinquency.
It is also important to look specifically at the impact of violent interactive media exposure because it changes the way that children consume and are exposed to violence. It enables the child consumer to perpetuate simulated violence which may increase the likelihood that they experience aggressive outbursts in later life in the real world. Anderson et. al also found that “youths who are watch violent scenes subsequently display more aggressive behavior, thoughts, and emotions than those who do not” (2003). Other conclusions from their meta-analysis further support this claim. They also found that children who are not originally highly aggressive are negatively impacted by exposure to violent media and the effects were both short and long term. With exposure to violent interactive video games the effects can be amplified and impact the child at much higher rates. The results of the proposed study would explain the extent to which this interactive media impacts adolescent aggression.
There are, however, limitations to the proposed to study. One example is there could be high participant fall out. Since the study is taking place utilizing surveys, participants might not feel obligated to complete and submit the surveys, especially for the entirety of the 12-week period which the study is taking place. Another limitation could also pertain to the survey aspect of the study, in the fact that participant’s might not record every entry for which they played the video game or had an aggressive outburst. They may forget throughout the course of the week and provide inaccurate data, which could impact the results. This type of dismissive behavior could also lead to participant fall out. Finally, since the data is being collected by participants of varying education levels, some might be easier to read than others. For the younger participants, sloppy handwriting or a limited vocabulary could lead to confusing or illegible data. It is clear that there are other possible issues and limitations inherent in study design, however, this design is sufficient in ability to produce a correlational value. The proposed study would be expected to produce a medium to strong correlation which would demonstrate that there is a positive correlation between violent video games and adolescent aggression.
- Anderson, C., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L., Johnson, J., Linz, D., . . . Wartella, E. (2003). The Influence of Media Violence on Youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4(3), 81-110. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.udayton.edu/stable/40059680
- Anderson, C. A., DeWall, C. N., & Bushman, B. J. (2011). The General Aggression Model: Theoretical Extensions to Violence. Psychology of Violence,1(3), 245-258. doi:10.1037/a0023842
- Hopf, W. H., Huber, G. L., & Weiß, R. H. (2008). Media Violence and Youth Violence. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 20(3), 79-96. doi:10.1027/1864-1184.108.40.206
- Jipguep, M., & Sanders-Phillips, K. (2003). The Context of Violence for Children of Color: Violence in the Community and in the Media. The Journal of Negro Education, 72(4), 379-395. doi:10.2307/3211190
- Potera, C. (2011). AJN Reports: Reducing Violent Behavior in Adolescents. The American Journal of Nursing, 111(3), 19-20. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.udayton.edu/stable/23046284
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