MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: We have been studying the steady increase in gun violence that has been occurring in popular PG-13 movies since the new rating was adopted in 1984. It has recently even surpassed the amount of gun violence in R-rated movies. Since these movies are open to the public at any age, we are concerned that they promote the use of guns and potentially socialize youth to believe that using guns to defend oneself is an appropriate way to handle threats and other conflicts.
We knew that the rating requires the omission of graphic consequences, such as blood and suffering, that can make the violence more acceptable. But we also wondered whether the motivation for the violence might make a difference as well. Many of the characters in PG-13 movies are seen as heroic (e.g., Bruce Willis and Liam Neeson). Could that also be a factor that makes such films more acceptable to parents despite their concerns about their children seeing so much violence in the movies. So, we conducted this experiment to see if parents are less upset by justified violence in PG-13 style movies.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our results show clearly that justified gun violence is less upsetting to parents and leads them to be more lenient about allowing their own children to watch such movies. Nevertheless, they still report that such movies are more appropriate for children ages 15 and older rather than 13, which is what the PG-13 rating suggests. The findings also are concerning because they suggest that the movie industry has found a way to get the PG-13 rating even though those movies display as much if not more gun violence than R-rated movies. And we don’t know whether they have a socializing effect that is harmful to at least some youth.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: We definitely need to know the effects of such movies on youth who watch a lot of such content. We know that heavy exposure to film violence can socialize aggressive behavior. But we know less about the specific effects of guns in such films and whether they encourage owning and potentially using guns to resolve conflicts. Furthermore, teaching the lesson that gun use is acceptable when it is seen as justified may also open the door to greater acquisition of guns.
We have no conflicts to disclose regarding the research.
Daniel Romer, Patrick E. Jamieson, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Robert Lull, Azeez Adebimpe. Parental Desensitization to Gun Violence in PG-13 Movies. Pediatrics, 2018; e20173491 DOI: 1542/peds.2017-3491
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