Posts Tagged ‘ violence ’

Violent TV, Video Game Viewing Linked to Gene

Monday, February 24th, 2014

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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Obama Administration: End ‘Zero Tolerance’ School Policies

Friday, January 10th, 2014

“Zero tolerance” policies in schools, while well-intentioned, are often ineffective and overly zealous, and they create a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects minority students, the Obama administration said this week in a set of new guidelines.  The guidelines urge schools to abandon “zero tolerance” policies in favor of alternate methods of deescalating classroom conflicts before they become violent and dangerous.  More from PBS.org:

The wide-ranging series of guidelines issued Wednesday in essence tells schools that they must adhere to the principle of fairness and equity in student discipline or face strong action if they don’t. The American Civil Liberties Union called the recommendations “ground-breaking.”

“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Holder said the problem often stems from well intentioned “zero-tolerance” policies that too often inject the criminal justice system into the resolution of problems. Zero-tolerance policies, a tool that became popular in the 1990s, often spell out uniform and swift punishment for offenses such as truancy, smoking or carrying a weapon. Violators can lose classroom time or become saddled with a criminal record.

Police have become a more common presence in American schools since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999.

The administration said research suggests the racial disparities in how students are disciplined are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.

“In our investigations, we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students,” the Justice and Education departments said in a letter to school districts. “In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.”

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, acknowledged that students of color were being suspended and expelled in disproportionate numbers.

In American schools, black students without disabilities were more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended, according to government civil rights data collection from 2011-2012. Although black students made up 15 percent of students in the data collection, they made up more than a third of students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once and more than a third of students expelled.

More than half of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black, according to the data.

Domenech said his organization will work to educate members about the recommendations. “Superintendents recognize that out-of-school suspension is outdated and not in line with 21st-century education,” he said.

Image: Prison bars, via Shutterstock

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Toddlers, Criminals May Share Brain Chemistry

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The “terrible twos” may actually have much in common with the way the brains of an 18-year-old violent criminal work, especially with regards to how they manage aggressive impulses.  More on recent research on this topic from The New York Times:

In other words, dangerous criminals don’t turn violent. They just stay that way.

These findings have been replicated in multiple large studies by several researchers on several continents.

“It’s highly reliable,” said Brad J. Bushman, a psychology professor at Ohio State University and an expert on child violence, who noted that toddlers use physical aggression even more than people in violent youth gangs do. “Thank God toddlers don’t carry weapons.”

The son of a professional football player, Dr. Tremblay played football himself and was fascinated with its regulated version of extreme physical aggression. After college he did social work in a prison and saw firsthand how seldom such programs changed violent criminals. By the time the violent child gets big, it’s often too late.

So he trained his focus earlier and earlier, and learned that the younger the children, the more they whacked each other. With adolescents, physically aggressive acts can be counted in incidents per month; with toddlers, he said, “you count the number per hour.”

In most children, though, this is as bad as it gets. The rate of violence peaks at 24 months, declines steadily through adolescence and plunges in early adulthood. But as Dr. Tremblay and Daniel S. Nagin, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University, found in a pivotal 1999 study, a troublesome few do not follow this pattern.

The study tracked behavior in 1,037 mostly disadvantaged Quebec schoolboys from kindergarten through age 18. The boys fell into four distinct trajectories of physical aggression.

The most peaceable 20 percent, a “no problem” group, showed little physical aggression at any age; two larger groups showed moderate and high rates of aggression as preschoolers. In these three groups violence fell through childhood and adolescence, and dropped to almost nothing when the boys reached their 20s.

A fourth group, about 5 percent, peaked higher during toddlerhood and declined far more slowly. Their curve was more plateau than hill.

As they moved into late adolescence and young adulthood, their aggression grew ever more dangerous, and it tailed off late. At age 17 they were four times as physically aggressive as the moderate group and committed 14 times as many criminal infractions. It’s these chronically violent individuals, Dr. Tremblay says, who are responsible for most violent crime.

(These numbers are all for boys and young men; girls’ physical aggression declines in arcs similar to those of boys, but at sharply lower levels.)

Image: Angry boy, via Shutterstock

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PG-13 Movies Getting More Violent, Study Finds

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Movies that are rated PG-13, which means that children over age 13 can see them in theaters, have gotten more and more violent in the last 2 decades, to the point where many are more violent than movies that earned an “R” rating in the 1980s.  More from NBC News:

Psychologists say it’s a worrisome trend that we should take seriously, because there is evidence that watching violence on screen increases aggression in real life.

“Of course it’s not the only factor, and it may not even be the most important factor, but it isn’t a trivial factor — and it’s one we can change,” says Brad Bushman, an Ohio State University psychologist and lead author of the new report.

Bushman and colleagues analyzed 945 popular films released from 1950 to 2012. Each movie was among the 30 top-grossing films of that year, and they randomly chose 15 of those top 30 movies to scrutinize. Undergrads watched every film and counted every violent act — they defined a violent sequence as “physical acts where the aggressor makes or attempts to make some physical contact with the intention of causing injury or death.”

They found that since 2009, PG-13 movies have featured as much or more violence than the R-rated films released those same years. And in 2012, there was more gun violence in PG-13 films than in the R-rated ones out that year….

There are a few things that might explain the remarkable rise in violence in PG-13 films. Ratings are determined by the Motion Picture Association of America — which means, Bushman says, they’re “assigned by the industry.” (The MPAA declined to comment on the study, but you can read more about the ratings system here.)

And a movie rated PG-13 will attract more theatergoers than an R, of course, because kids can go see it. Romer also thinks the rise in sci-fi and comic book movies has something to do with it —violence may be easier for us to handle if it’s got a fantasy element to it. And violence is understandable in every language, which means violence-fueled action movies are more marketable overseas than comedies.

Image: Teens at movies, via Shutterstock

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Details Emerge in Nevada School Shooting

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The Nevada middle school shooting that left two dead early Monday morning was perpetrated by a student, and it claimed the lives of a beloved math teacher and the shooter, who shot and killed himself with the handgun he allegedly took from his parents, CNN was reporting Monday night as details continued to emerge.  More from their report:

An official used one word to describe the scene at Sparks Middle School: chaos.

The shooter took a handgun from his parents, a federal law enforcement source who was briefed on the situation told CNN’s Evan Perez.

The gunman shot and killed himself, Sparks Deputy Chief Tom Miller said Monday evening at a news conference.

Authorities said the shooter’s motive was unclear.

“It’s too early to say whether he was targeting specific people or just going on an indiscriminate shooting spree,” said Tom Robinson, deputy chief of the Reno Police Department.

Mike Landsberry, a math teacher at the school, was killed in the shooting, Sparks Mayor Geno Martini told CNN.

In addition to his work as a teacher, Landsberry also had served in the Marines and served several tours in Afghanistan as a member of the Nevada Air National Guard, his brother, Reggie, told “Anderson Cooper 360.”

“He was the kind of person that if someone needed help he would be there,” Reggie Landsberry said. “He loved teaching. He loved the kids. He loved coaching them. … He was just a good all-around individual.”

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