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Study: Violent Games Hurt Teens With Mental Issues, Harmless Otherwise

angry boy with violent video gameThe debate surrounding the effect of violent video games on today's youth is a pretty contentious one: some insist that superfluous exposure to violence only encourages similar behavior in hormonally charged teenagers; others argue that a child's behavioral problems have more to do with parenting than what games he or she plays after school. According to a recent study, though, games' effects on teenagers may be more intrinsically linked to a kid's pre-existing mental state than anything else.

In a paper published in the Review of General Psychology, professors Patrick and Charlotte Markey claim that the effect of video games on teenagers depends, in large part, on a kid's psychological predisposition. If a child is easily angered, prone to depression or generally recalcitrant, violent video games may only serve to exacerbate these characteristics. By using a so-called Five Factor Model of personality traits, the researchers examined which combination of characteristics would prove especially susceptible to negative influence from video games, and found that teens with high neuroticism, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness were most likely to become more hostile when exposed to digital violence.

On the whole, though, the Markeys found that, for most kids, video games are pretty innocuous; they even cited evidence from previous studies espousing some of gaming's beneficial effects on teens. To that end, the Review's guest editor Christopher Ferguson told the American Psychological Association, "Violent video games are like peanut butter. They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems."

It's always easy to extrapolate too much information from one study, and these results by no means negate the role that good parenting plays in sculpting a child's behavior. But the report does present an interesting way to interpret the line of causality between external violence and teenage behavior. Most high-schoolers probably display many of the "perfect storm" traits that Markey mentions, since they are, after all, adolescents. But for those who actually have diagnosed mental disorders -- and not just a full-blown case of hormones -- Markey's findings may go a long way toward helping them, and their parents, deal with their conditions. [From: APA, via: The Consumerist]

Tags: health, mental health, MentalHealth, parenting, psychology, study, teenagers, top, VideoGames, violence, ViolenceInVideoGames