Public Release: 

Review of research shows that playing violent video games can heighten aggression

Boys play games longer and may be more vulnerable to increases in aggressive behavior

American Psychological Association

WASHINGTON - Violent video games can increase aggressive behavior in children and adolescents, both in the short- and long-term, according to an empirical review of the last 20 years of research. These findings are presented at the 113th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, DC.

According to researchers Jessica Nicoll, B.A., and Kevin M. Kieffer, Ph.D., of Saint Leo University, youth who played violent video games for a short time experienced an increase in aggressive behavior following the video game. One study showed participants who played a violent game for less than 10 minutes rate themselves with aggressive traits and aggressive actions shortly after playing. In another study of over 600 8th and 9th graders, the children who spent more time playing violent video games were rated by their teachers as more hostile than other children in the study. The children who played more violent video games had more arguments with authority figures and were more likely to be involved in physical altercations with other students. They also performed more poorly on academic tasks.

Furthermore, violent video game players "tend to imitate the moves that they just 'acted out' in the game they played," said Dr. Kieffer. For example, children who played violent karate games duplicated this type of behavior while playing with friends. These findings demonstrate the possible dangers associated with playing this type of video game over and over again.

The authors also found that boys tend to play video games for longer periods of time than girls. Boys may play more of these types of video games, said Kieffer, because women are portrayed in subordinate roles and the girls may find less incentive to play. But those girls who did play violent video games, according to the review, were more likely to prefer playing with an aggressive toy and were more aggressive when playing.

Finally, children and adolescents who are attracted to the violent content in the games are likely to be more vulnerable to the effects of that exposure, according to the review.

Both Nicoll and Kieffer say that the recent changes that put age limits and rating systems on games make it more difficult for young children to purchase and play these video games. But, say the psychologists, "future research needs to explore why many children and adolescents prefer to play a violent video game rather than play outside, and why certain personalities are drawn to these types of games."


Presentation: "Violence in Video Games: A Review of the Empirical Research," Jessica Nicoll, BA, and Kevin M. Kieffer, PhD., Saint Leo University; Session 2185, 1:00 - 1:50 PM, Friday, August 19, Washington Convention Center, Level 2, Halls D & E [N-7].

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office

Kevin Kieffer, PhD can be reached by phone at 352-588-8306 or by email at and Jessica Nicoll, BA can be reached by email at

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

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