Parents, Relax: Movie Violence Up, Real Violence Down

NARRATIVE BUSTER: “The problem may be that social science, especially when it concerns children, sometimes has a hard time keeping cultural agendas out of what are supposed to be scientific papers.”


A new study in the journal Pediatrics that’s getting a lot of mileage in the media laments a disturbing trend of violence in movies. According to a survey conducted by Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University, and his colleagues, violence in movies has doubled since 1950, and gun violence in PG-13 films has tripled since 1985 when that ratings designation was first implemented. The authors warn of a direct link between fictional violence and real violent behavior. “We know that movies teach children how adults behave, and they make gun use appear exciting and attractive,” said Dan Romer, a co-author and the director of the Adolescent Communication Institute of the Annenberg Public Policy Center in Pennsylvania.

Which sounds reasonable except that it flies in the face of real data. Both youth violence overall and gun violence specifically have declined precipitously during recent decades as movie…

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