Videogames & criminal behaviours among juvenile offenders (Delisi et al., 2013)

I’ve wondered why criminologists have not voiced their opinions about media violence and its effects on crime and juvenile delinquency. Matt DeLisi (Iowa State University) along with Douglas Gentile & Craig Anderson (Iowa State University) have published some correlational findings in Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice.

Abstract

Violent video game playing is correlated with aggression, but its relation to antisocial behavior in correctional and juvenile justice samples is largely unknown. Based on a data from a sample of institutionalized juvenile delinquents, behavioral and attitudinal measures relating to violent video game playing were associated with a composite measure of delinquency and a more specific measure of violent delinquency after controlling for the effects of screen time, years playing video games, age, sex, race, delinquency history, and psychopathic personality traits. Violent video games are associated with antisociality even in a clinical sample, and these effects withstand the robust influences of multiple correlates of juvenile delinquency and youth violence most notably psychopathy.

I suddenly have some black floaters in the center vision of my right eye that is distracting me from reading and writing as every movement my right eye makes, it squiggles.

The authors noted that criminologists have been slow to examine the effects of violent videogames on serious delinquency and youth violence given the years of psychological research on the topic. Curiously, they have not cited Joanne Savage (American University) as she is a criminologist and explained that criminologists tend to examine crime in their own field, look at aggregate factors , like poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage, and they tend to regard media violence as less significant or unimportant compared to other risk factors (see Savage, 2008).

The authors did note this critique that media violence is too ubiquitous to have an effect on delinquency when other factors are considered. Ferguson’s articles noted that other factors, such as genetics, developmental factors, such as bad parenting, childhood depression, family violence among other factors, are better predictors of criminal behaviours (see Ferguson et al., 2013a & 2013b). However, the authors noted that there were few studies that examined the relationship between media violence and criminal behaviours or criminal aggression.

Method

Participants:227 juvenile offenders from two facilities. One facility is for males (n=126) whose age range from 14 to 18 and were there between 3 and 12 months. The other facility is for females (n=101) with the same age range and were in the facilities for same range. Most juvenile offenders had committed more than 15 acts of delinquency and nearly 9 acts of serious violence. 70% were drug sellers and 64% sold drugs on a daily basis. The sample’s characteristics are representative of previous studies of juvenile offenders.

What bothered me is that they sampled a special population and it would be useful to have another sample of juvenile who are matched on several demographical characteristics, except they’re not being offenders. This would allow a comparison between the juvenile offenders and juvenile non-offenders. Maybe they play the same kinds of games and relatively the same amount of videogame play time.

Measures

Delinquency and serious violence: The self-report of delinquency. Participants report on a 9-point scale on whether they have committed delinquent behaviours, such as theft, theft of drugs, property damage, or attacked someone. Serious violent acts include gang fighting, hitting someone (parent, teacher, peers or someone). I don’t understand why researchers ask for delinquent behaviours, would it be fine to look into their criminal records as well?

Videogame exposure: participants reported their top three favorite videogames, reported how often they played on a 4-point scale and how violent it is on a 4-point scale. They also reported their attitudes such as how much they enjoy violence in video games, and how much they enjoy prosocial acts in videogames. They reported the number of years they played videogames and total screen time per week.

Psychopathy: This is assessed by the Youth Psychopathic Traits Inventory.

Procedure

Responses from the juvenile offenders were collected through group interviewers with between 3 to 5 participants.

Results

They conducted negative binomial regressions because the numbers in the dependent variables are overdispersed and the variance exceed the mean. So, it means to me that it is not a normal distribution.

What they found in the regression for delinquent behaviours is that frequent play of violent videogames, positive attitudes towards playing violent videogames and psychopathy were significant predictors. Although, they used confidence intervals to determine statistical significance, someone noted the violent videogame play’s confidence interval included zero, which might mean that it is close to statistical non-significance. The results are the same for serious violent acts, except for the confidence interval.

Discussion

The take home message is that juvenile offenders’ delinquent behaviours and serious violent acts are affected by their positive attitudes towards violence in videogames, their play in violent videogames and their psychopathy. The authors argued that youths with pre-existing psychopathology are at risk of the aversive effects of violent videogame play.

The authors listed some limitations. First, it is correlational, so no cause-and-effect conclusions. Second, a longitudinal design would help examine how violent videogames might impact future criminal behaviours. Some other limitations gleamed from Ferguson’s research (see Ferguson et al., 2013a & 2013b), such as single responder bias (i.e., reports from a single source instead of  multiple responders like parents, teachers, parole officers, etc.), more confounding variables, such as antisocial personality, family attachment, presence of delinquent peers, family violence, depression, parental supervision, bullying, intelligence, school problems, etc. Their research also investigated delinquent behaviours and arrests among a sample of Hispanic youths and a nationally representative sample, respectively. They found no relationships between media consumption and delinquent behaviors.

I apologize for not writing this post in more detail because of that damn floater in my right eye! Argh!

DeLisi, M., Vaughn, M. G., Gentile, D. A., Anderson, C. A., & Shook, J. J. (2013). Violent video games, delinquency, and youth violence: New evidence. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 11 (2), 132-142. DOI:10.1177/1541204012460874

Ferguson, C. J., Ivory, J. D., & Beaver, K. M. (2013). Genetic, maternal, school, intelligence, and media use predictors of adult criminality: A longitudinal test of the catalyst model in adolescence through early adulthood. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 22 (5), 447-460. DOI:10.1080/10926771.2013.785457

Ferguson, C. J., Garza, A., Jerabeck, J., Ramos, R., & Galindo, M. (2013). Not worth the fuss after all? cross-sectional and prospective data on violent video game influences on aggression, visuospatial cognition and mathematics ability in a sample of youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42 (1), 109-122. DOI:10.1007/s10964-012-9803-6

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