MONDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The amount of gun violence
in PG-13 movies has tripled since 1985, the year the film rating
category was introduced, a new study shows.
Not only that, violent gun scenes have become more common in
PG-13 movies, where children aged 13 and under can only see the
film with a parent, than they are in R-rated movies, the
researchers added. R-rated movies require people under 17 to be
accompanied by an adult.
But experts noted that the findings do not definitively link
more exposure to gun violence on the screen to more violent
behavior among kids.
"Guns are becoming more prevalent in films, but there is no evidence to suggest this portrayal is related to violence in the real world," said Patrick Markey, an associate professor of psychology at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
Complicating the picture, other studies have shown that
homicides, robberies and the most severe types of assaults have
actually declined in recent years even as research suggests gun
violence in films grew over the same time period, added Markey, who
was not involved with the new study.
In this latest study, the researchers examined a database that
details violent scenes in 945 films, all selected from the most
profitable 30 movies from each year between 1950 and 2012. The
investigators found that 94 percent of 420 movies made since 1985,
the year the PG-13 rating was introduced, included scenes that they
defined as violent because a person tried to physically hurt
Then the researchers counted incidents of gun violence, which
they defined as using hand-held weapons that fire bullets or energy
"Maybe movies that display gun violence should be rated R instead of PG-13," said study author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. "That's a possible policy decision that could be made based on such findings."
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has come under
fire in recent years for being much more accepting of violence in
movies than sexual content. An MPAA spokeswoman declined to comment
for this story.
The study doesn't describe the context of the scenes of gun
violence or address the consequences of gun use, for instance. But
Bushman pointed to research that suggests people become more
aggressive after just reading about guns.
However, more than 200 people from the academic world signed and
sent a statement to the American Psychological Association in
September saying the group has wrongly relied upon "inconsistent or
weak evidence" in its attempts to connect violence in the media to
"There's very little good evidence linking media violence to violence in real life," said Chris Ferguson, chair of the department of psychology at Stetson University in Florida and one of the statement's signers. "I've conducted a number of studies myself, and have found no evidence linking media violence to actual youth violence. The same has been true for studies by other groups."
Ferguson added that "youth violence is at its lowest level in 40
years, no matter what age of child we are talking about."
Still, a recent study suggested that while it's fairly rare for
emergency rooms to treat gunshot wounds in kids, 8 percent of the
children who are wounded by guns die.
Ferguson called the new study "quite alarmist," although he
thinks it's likely that movies have indeed become more violent.
"The question for me is 'so what?'" he said. "In the face of massive declines in violence in our society, I have trouble seeing the 'so what.' There's not much here for parents or Hollywood to worry about."
The study appears online Nov. 11 and in the December print issue
of the journal
Learn more about
movie ratingsfrom the Motion Picture Association
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