Videogames and guns in adolescents: T ests of a bipartite theory Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The possible role of video gaming in imprinting aggressive and specifically gun-related behaviors has been elusive, and findings regarding these associations have been inconsistent. I address this gap by proposing and testing a bipartite theory that can explain inconsistent results regarding the previously assumed linear association between videogames and gun-related behaviors. The theory suggests that this association follows a U-shape. It posits that at low levels of video gaming time, video gaming displaces gun-related behaviors and shelters adolescents by keeping them occupied and by reducing opportunities and motivation to acquire guns. However, at some level of gaming time (because most popular games adolescents play include violent aspects), the assumed imprinting of aggressive behaviors overpowers the positive displacement force, and this can trivialize and naturalize gun-carrying behaviors, and ultimately increase motivation to obtain and carry guns. I tested this theory with two national samples of American adolescents (n1 = 24,779 and n2 = 26,543, out of which 403 and 378, respectively, reported bringing a gun to school in the last month). Multiple analyses supported the proposed U-shaped association. These findings show that the moral panic over video games is largely unsubstantiated, especially among light to moderate gamers.

publication date

  • August 2020