Date of Award

9-19-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Menna, Rosanne

Keywords

aggression, child, parent, risk factors, temperament, Violent video games

Rights

CC-BY-NC-ND

Abstract

The present study examined links between children’s violent video game exposure and aggression, and the influence of parent and child risk factors (i.e., children’s negative affect and hostile attribution bias, parental monitoring, and children’s gender). Participants were 122 Canadian parent-child dyads (99 unique parents) including children between 7 and 10 years of age (41 girls, 81 boys; 72 mothers, 26 fathers). Parents completed pencil-and-paper questionnaires assessing children’s violent video game exposure, aggressive behaviour, negative affect, and parental monitoring of children’s media use (i.e., parental involvement, limit setting, and communication). Children completed pencil-and-paper questionnaires assessing violent video game exposure and hostile attribution bias. Parents’ perceptions about children’s video gaming and links with aggression were also explored during semi-structured interviews with 15 of the parents (10 mothers, 5 fathers). The analyses revealed that higher levels of parent-reported children’s violent video game exposure predicted higher levels of aggression. In addition, higher levels of children’s negative affect predicted higher levels of children’s aggression. Children’s negative affect was found to mediate the relation between children’s violent video game exposure (parent report) and aggression, such that higher levels of children’s violent video game exposure indirectly related to higher levels of children’s aggression, through higher levels of negative affect. Children’s hostile attribution bias was not predictive of children’s aggression, nor did it mediate the link between children’s violent video game exposure and aggression. In terms of parental monitoring, higher levels of children’s violent video game exposure were related to higher levels of parental involvement and communication. None of the parental monitoring variables (i.e., parental involvement, limit setting, and communication) were related to children’s aggression. The relation between children’s violent video game exposure and aggression did not vary based on levels of parental monitoring or children’s gender. Results from the thematic analysis of the interview data supported these findings. Parents believed that exposure to children’s violent video games would increase their risk of engaging in real world violence and imitating aggressive or violent behaviours from the video games. Parents also reported that children experienced negative reactions, such as aggression, to playing video games -- including violent video games. Parents thought that children’s reactions to playing violent video games varied based on children’s temperament, and that children might be at greater risk of experiencing negative reactions if they had certain traits (e.g., overly emotional, angry). In terms of parental monitoring, parents were more likely to monitor children’s gaming if parents, themselves, were interested in gaming or if children were playing games with violent content. Parents were more likely to discuss gaming with their children when children played video games with violent content. Similarly, parents tended to set limits on the content children were exposed to (i.e., violent games); however, most children were exposed to violence in video games. Overall, these findings identify parent and child factors (i.e., children’s negative affect, parental involvement and communication) that may mitigate or exacerbate the effects of playing violent video games, which can be useful for education on media use, intervention programs, and directions for future research.

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