Bottom Line: Habitually playing violent video games appears to increase aggression in children, regardless of parental involvement and other factors.

Author: Douglas A. Gentile, Ph.D., of Iowa State University, Ames, and colleagues.

Background: More than 90 percent of American youths play video games, and many of these games depict violence, which is often portrayed as fun, justified and without negative consequences.

How the Study Was Conducted: The authors tracked children and adolescents in Singapore over three years on self-reported measures of gaming habits, aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition (AC, such as aggressive fantasies, beliefs about aggression, and attaching motives of hostility to ambiguous provocations) and empathy. The researchers also examined the effects of age, sex, parental monitoring and other traits.

Results: Among 3,034 children, a habit of playing violent video games was associated with long-term, self-reported aggressive behavior through increases in AC, regardless of parental involvement, age, sex and initial aggressiveness. Empathy did not appear to mediate the effects of playing violent video games on aggression. However, the authors suggest more investigation is needed before concluding the effects are entirely the result of changes in AC.

Discussion: "Because of the large number of youths and adults who play violent video games, improving our understanding of the effects is a significant research goal that has important implications for theory, public health and intervention strategies designed to reduce negative effects or to enhance potential positive effects."