Violent TV, Video Game Viewing Linked to Gene

Children who engage in a lot of violent video game play and television viewing may be driven by genetics, according to new research conducted with Dutch children and published in the Journal of Communication.

The parents noted how much violent TV programming their children, aged 5-9, viewed, as well as how often they played violent video games. DNA samples collected at the children’s birth were then analyzed to determine whether they have a certain gene variant. The researchers found that children who had the specific variation of the serotonin-transporter gene on average consumed more violent media and displayed more ADHD-related behavior than those who did not have the genetic marker.

The researchers noted that the link is subtle, and other factors, chiefly the parenting environment children are growing up in, may be at play.  However, other research has found links between genetic factors and the overall amount of media children are likely to consume.  And this new study is the first to isolate the type of media–violent content–being consumed in light of genetic factors.  So the scientists called for further research.

“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 [researcher Sanne] Nikkelen in a statement. “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.”

Image: Child playing video game, via Shutterstock

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