Context: Youth worldwide play violent video games many hours per week. Previous research suggests that such exposure can increase physical aggression.
Objective: We tested whether high exposure to violent video games increases physical aggression over time in both high- (United States) and low- (Japan) violence cultures. We hypothesized that the amount of exposure to violent video games early in a school year would predict changes in physical aggressiveness assessed later in the school year, even after statistically controlling for gender and previous physical aggressiveness.
Design: In 3 independent samples, participants' video game habits and physically aggressive behavior tendencies were assessed at 2 points in time, separated by 3 to 6 months.
Participants: One sample consisted of 181 Japanese junior high students ranging in age from 12 to 15 years. A second Japanese sample consisted of 1050 students ranging in age from 13 to 18 years. The third sample consisted of 364 United States 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-graders ranging in age from 9 to 12 years. RESULTS. Habitual violent video game play early in the school year predicted later aggression, even after controlling for gender and previous aggressiveness in each sample. Those who played a lot of violent video games became relatively more physically aggressive. Multisample structure equation modeling revealed that this longitudinal effect was of a similar magnitude in the United States and Japan for similar-aged youth and was smaller (but still significant) in the sample that included older youth.
Conclusions: These longitudinal results confirm earlier experimental and cross-sectional studies that had suggested that playing violent video games is a significant risk factor for later physically aggressive behavior and that this violent video game effect on youth generalizes across very different cultures. As a whole, the research strongly suggests reducing the exposure of youth to this risk factor.