Violence Caused by Media or not

Many people argue that media violence is the gateway to violent behavior in individuals but upon closer examination, this argument falls apart. In fact, there are several studies that definitively demonstrate how violence is caused by other factors, with media violence playing just a small part in the outcome. So, while it may be generally thought that consumption of violent media leads to more aggressive behavior in the population, personality, psychological disorders, upbringing, economics and substance abuse are shown to contribute more towards the likelihood that a person will behave violently, regardless of exposure to violent media content.

The debate over media violence leading to real violence is not new. In the early 1990’s, Senator Joe Lieberman wanted to put a ban on violent video games, which led to establishing the ratings board on video games. Senator Lieberman and Senator Herb Kohl spearheaded a joint congressional hearing in December 1993 (Kohler 1994). Though they wanted to band video games the gaming commission instead used ratings to help people determine better what the risks are of buying the video games. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) created a rating system that has the following categories, “E-EVERYONE, E10-EVERYONE 10+, T-TEEN, M-MATURE 17+, A-ADULTS ONLY 18+,” some with content descriptors such as “E-everyone (comic mischief, mild lyrics)” (ERSB).

The argument that the more violence on tv and in video games people consume, the more likely people are to commit these violent acts fails to take in some important psychological facts. Violence does not come from media alone; the psychological state of a person causes the reaction to media violence one way or another. “The majority of persons who commit violent crimes, whether habitually or in unique circumstances, exhibit a personality disorder” (Stone 1). Personality Disorders (PD) such as Sadistic PD, Paranoid PD and Antisocial PD are some of the leaders in personality disorders that exhibit violence. “Personality disorders result from the interaction of genes and environment. That is, some people are born with a genetic tendency to have a personality disorder, and this tendency is then suppressed or enhanced by environmental factors” (Skodol 1). “Personality disorders usually appear during late adolescence or early adulthood, but they may appear earlier (during childhood). How long they last varies greatly. Some types of personality disorders (such as antisocial or borderline) tend to lessen or resolve as people age. Others (such as obsessive-compulsive or schizotypal) are less likely to do so” (Skodol 1). This means that for a person who is already prone to violence, violent media may have an impact that leads to a more violent behavior. However, for the average citizen, this situation is not the case it is a small percentage that even has these personality disorders, let alone is so moved by exposure in media to actually increase their violent behavior. According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions there are an “estimated 14.9 percent of Americans 18 years or older (30.8 million persons) meet standard diagnostic criteria for at least one personality disorder, as defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed” (Wright 1).

Economic deficit commonly leads to substance abuse along with violent tendencies. Crime has decreased since the 1990’s. “The crack-cocaine epidemic in the mid-1980s added fuel to the fire, and handgun-related homicides more than doubled between 1985 and 1990” (Ford 1). It is thought that the increase in viable income resulted in a reduction in the need of illegal income. “Community level risk factors for violence include increased levels of unemployment, poverty and transiency; decreased levels of economic opportunity and community participation; poor housing conditions; gang activity, emotional distress and a lack of access to services (Chen, Voisin, & Jacobson, 2016; McMahon et al., 2013; Voisin & Neilands, 2010)” (APA).

Substance abuse also plays a part in violent behavior along with poverty and psychology. Substance abuse typically causes irrational behavior due to being under the influence coupled with the percentage of personality disorder a person has. “The correlation between substance abuse and violent behavior has been well documented. For example, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment noted that more than 75 percent of people who begin treatment for drug addiction report having performed various acts of violence, including (but not limited to) mugging, physical assault, and using a weapon to attack another person” (American Addiction Centers). Substance abuse causes many types of violence, suicide, domestic violence, aggravated assault, rape and homicide.

In conclusion though there are reports stating that media is the source of violence it is not conclusive that media is the only source, psychological and personality disorders are a major factor that desensitize or heighten the effect of violence. Social economics and the lack of economic resources can cause people to commit violent crimes to attempt to gain resources and items that they lack and are unattainable to them with the income they have or lack thereof. Substance abuse is a major benefactor as well in the epidemic of violence due to the inability to function or think clearly, as well as the combination of the percentage of personality disorder a person is born with. All of these items separate or combined can lead to the use of violence and violent tendencies. Though violence in the media could heighten these acts, media violence can not be unequivocally considered the cause of real-life violence.


Kohler, Chris. “July 29, 1994: Videogame Makers Propose Ratings Board to Congress.” Wired, Conde Nast, 28 June 2018,

“SEARCH ESRB RATINGS.” Helpful Tips for Parents about Video Games,

Stone, M. H. (2007), Violent crimes and their relationship to personality disorders. Personality, 1: 138-153. doi:10.1002/pmh.18

Skodol, A. “Overview of Personality Disorders – Mental Health Disorders.” Merck Manuals Professional Edition, Andrew Skodol, MD,

Wright, Janis. “A Survey of Personality Disorders.” AAFP Home, 15 Oct. 2004,

Ford, Matt. “What Caused the Great Crime Decline in the U.S.?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 15 Apr. 2016,

American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association,

“Relationship Between Drug Addiction, Alcoholism, and Violence.” American Addiction Centers, 6 Nov. 2018,

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