For sex and violence, watching is linked to doing

Teens who watch a lot of TV sex are more likely to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant, according to a new Rand study published in Pediatrics.

(Over a three-year period) those who viewed the most sexual content on TV were about twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy as those who saw the least.

. . . researchers calculated how often the teens saw characters kissing, touching, having sex, and discussing past or future sexual activity.

. . . About 25 percent of those who watched the most were involved in a pregnancy, compared with about 12 percent of those who watched the least. The researchers took into account other factors such as having only one parent, wanting to have a baby and engaging in other risky behaviors.

In another study, also in Pediatrics, playing violent video games was linked to aggression for children in the U.S. and Japan.

In every group, children who were exposed to more video game violence did become more aggressive over time than their peers who had less exposure. This was true even after the researchers took into account how aggressive the children were at the beginning of the study — a strong predictor of future bad behavior.

Children who watch violence “can internalize the message that the world is a hostile place and that acting aggressively is an OK way to deal with it,” says Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann.  In addition, children can become desensitized to violence, he said.

Others say context matters: Are players using violence to defend virtue or hunt down people to kill?

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  1. What is the direction of causality though? Does watching sexual content on TV cause teens to be more sexually active, or do teens with a higher likelihood of engaging in sex choose to watch programs featuring it?

    I’ve never been interested in programs like “Desperate Housewives” or “Grey’s Anatomy” where bed-hopping is glamorized. And I was a virgin until I was an adult headed to the altar. I would say the key factor in both is my underlying set of moral values about sexuality.

  2. “The findings are “pretty good evidence” that violent video games do indeed cause aggressive behavior, says Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor.”

    Self-reported data from 9-12 year olds is a valid way to prove causation?

    I think it was Downes who pointed out that when you see lots of articles about “conclusive evidence” in a study and not the actual study itself, that there’s a good chance that the goal was news articles, not science.