1. A review of violence and its co-occurrence with other risk behaviors including tobacco use, alcohol use, and sex, in top grossing films from 1985 to 2010 reveals that PG-13 rated movies had few differences from R-rated films in terms of the amount of violence and risk behavior portrayed.
2. Violence was highly prevalent among top grossing films, and a majority of violent characters also engaged in other risk behaviors.
Study Rundown: Prior studies have shown that the consumption of media displaying smoking, alcohol use, sex, and violence impacts adolescents’ risk behaviors. This study sampled top-grossing films from 1985 to 2010 for characters that committed acts of violence, and engaged in other risk behaviors including sex, alcohol use, and tobacco use. They compared the rates of these behaviors between Motion Picture Association of America rating categories of PG-13 and R. The rate of violence and co-occurring risk behaviors was similar in PG-13 and R rated movies with few exceptions. Violence was present in 90% of the movies sampled, and the majority of violent characters also engaged in other risk behaviors. The study does not include the frequency of adolescents viewing these top grossing films, nor any direct relationship to adolescent behaviors. However, it serves as a reminder that parents and professionals who work with adolescents cannot presume that PG-13 content is more benign than R-rated content.
Relevant Reading: The mass media and American adolescents’ health
In-Depth [retrospective cohort]: Half of Variety magazine’s annual top-selling box office list from 1985 to 2010, a total of 390 films, were sampled in 5-minute segments for violence, sexual content, alcohol use, and tobacco use by main characters. Violence and sexual content were also rated by explicitness and modeling of the behavior. The co-occurrence of violence with the other sampled behaviors was examined within the same film, as well as within 5-minute segments. There was no significant difference in rates of violence co-occurring with any other risk behavior throughout the movie between PG-13 (81.7%) and R rated movies (87.7%). Of all films surveyed, 90% of films contained a segment with a main character involved in violence, and 77% of the violent characters also engaged in other risk behaviors. The amount of violence in films did not significantly vary over the time interval studied. However, there was a significant decrease in tobacco use (OR = 0.92, P<.01) and a significant decrease in alcohol use (OR = 0.96, P< .01)
By Laurel Wickberg and Leah H. Carr
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