Who is Most at Risk for Developing Physical Aggression After Playing Violent Video Games? An Individual Differences Perspective From Early Adolescence to Emerging Adulthood

J Youth Adolesc. 2023 Apr;52(4):719-733. doi: 10.1007/s10964-023-01739-0. Epub 2023 Feb 10.


Many theories of development suggest that playing violent video games would not impact all adolescents the same way, yet empirical research is sparse. To date there have been no within-subjects analyses that examine which adolescents are most at risk for developing aggression after playing violent video games and under what context, and no longitudinal studies encompassing multiple developmental stages (i.e., early adolescence to emerging adulthood) that examine the long-term effects of playing violent video games. To address this gap, the current study used a longitudinal design (spanning 8 years and encompassing multiple developmental periods) with a sample of U.S. adolescents who completed questionnaires on aggression, video gaming, and multiple risk and protective factors for aggression. Participants included 488 adolescents (M age = 13.82, SD = 1.03 at the initial wave, 51% female, with 65% being White, 12% Black, 19% multiethnic, and 4% other). Mixture regression was utilized to model physical aggression over time and to examine how playing violent video games might be related to aggression on an individual level. There were four classes: "Multi-risk", "High Gaming, High Aggression" (both of which had high levels of aggression over time), "Moderate Risk", and "Low Risk, High Privilege" (both of which had lower levels of aggression over time). Individuals were most aggressive with multiple risk factors or higher levels of violent game play and playing violent video games likely increased aggression more in individuals with other gaming problems and in males with low self-regulation. The results are discussed using a balanced perspective and recognize that violent video games do not affect all adolescents the same way. This research has direct implications for designing interventions around reducing aggressive behavior among adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescence; Aggression; Differential susceptibility; Gaming; Violence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Video Games*
  • Violence*