Video games and conduct disorder in teenage years

1) Research article: Etchells, P. et al. Prospective Investigation of Video Game Use in Children and Subsequent Conduct Disorder and Depression Using Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. PLOS One. Published: January 28, 2016

Abstract: There is increasing public and scientific concern regarding the long-term behavioural effects of video game use in children, but currently little consensus as to the nature of any such relationships. We investigated the relationship between video game use in children, degree of violence in games, and measures of depression and a 6-level banded measure of conduct disorder. Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were used. A 3-level measure of game use at age 8/9 years was developed, taking into account degree of violence based on game genre. Associations with conduct disorder and depression, measured at age 15, were investigated using ordinal logistic regression, adjusted for a number of potential confounders. Shoot-em-up games were associated with conduct disorder bands, and with a binary measure of conduct disorder, although the strength of evidence for these associations was weak. A sensitivity analysis comparing those who play competitive games to those who play shoot-em-ups found weak evidence supporting the hypothesis that it is violence rather than competitiveness that is associated with conduct disorder. However this analysis was underpowered, and we cannot rule out the possibility that increasing levels of competition in games may be just as likely to account for the observed associations as violent content. Overall game exposure as indicated by number of games in a household was not related to conduct disorder, nor was any association found between shoot-em-up video game use and depression.

2) Science Media Centre. Expert reaction to study reporting weak association between playing certain types of video games in childhood and risk of conduct disorder in teenage years. Published:  January 28, 2016.

Dr Max Davie, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

“This paper uses the best available data to place the debate around video games and behavioural problems on a scientific, evidence-based footing.

“In doing so, they have busted some important myths. The overall amount of games played is not associated with adverse outcomes. The association between violent games and behavioural problems is weak, and only possibly causal.

“We know that all children play games. As a developmental paediatrician, the families that worry me are those that are unable to set boundaries about what games are appropriate, leading to exposure to 18 certificate games. However these are also families who struggle to set boundaries more generally. This is itself associated with later behavioural problems, and may be one of the residual confounders mentioned by the authors.

“Rather than scapegoat video games generally, it would be more sensible to focus on educating and supporting families to understand the certificate system, empowering and training parents to set boundaries, and getting retailers and publishers to show responsibility in marketing and selling violent games. That way, I may never again have to tell an outraged 8-year-old that he’s not allowed to pay Grand Theft Auto, while his mother looks on impotently.”

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