Watching Violent Media Linked to a Gene

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Though often used as a scapegoat during times of stress, its clear that violent movies, TV, and video games do not actually cause children or anyone else to become violent. Why, then, do people enjoy such entertainment? A new study has now shown that it could all come down to genetics.

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam have now linked violent media to a specific gene variation. In other words, genetics may influence how much violent media children tend to consumer. The study has been published in the Journal of Communication.

The new study follows from previous ones that have shown that the consumption of media in total can be partially inherited by children from their parents. The study's authors looked at over 1,600 parents of children ages five to nine. The parents reported how much violent media (TV and video games, specifically) their children consumed on a regular basis and then provided DNA samples taken from their children.

After analyzing the children's genetics and comparing them to reported violent media watching habits, the researchers found that a specific serotonin-transporter gene that could influence these habits. The gene was also found to be linked to increased ADHD symptoms.

"Our results indicate that children's violent media use is partly influenced by genetic factors. This could mean that children with this gene variant are more likely to seek out stimulating activities, such as violent television viewing and video game playing," said Sanne Nikkelen, lead author of the study and a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam. "It is important to study the relationship between media use and ADHD-related behaviors because children who show increased ADHD-related behaviors often face peer and academic difficulties and are at increased risk for substance abuse. Examining factors that may contribute to the development of these behaviors is essential."

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