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Movie violence associated with sex, alcohol and tobacco use

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly 90 percent of the top-grossing movies over a 25-year period show main characters acting violently, and in 77 percent of the movies those characters also engage in sex-, alcohol- or tobacco-related behavior, a new study has shown.

The study, by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that more than half of the biggest PG-13 movies featured a main character  acting violently and involved in either drinking, sexual behavior or smoking within a five-minute segment.

The study, published in the January 2014 issue of Pediatrics (online Dec. 9), shows there is essentially no difference between the most popular movies rated PG-13 for younger viewers and restricted, R-rated films in showing main characters engaged in both violence and alcohol use or violence and sexual behavior. These compounded depictions of risk are “potentially teaching youth that violence is as acceptable as these other behaviors,” the researchers said.

“We know that some teenagers imitate what they see on-screen,” said Amy Bleakley, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “What concerns us is that movies aimed at younger viewers are making a connection between violence and a variety of risky behaviors – sex, drinking and smoking.”

The study, “Violent Film Characters’ Portrayal of Alcohol, Sex, and Tobacco-Related Behaviors,” analyzed characters’ actions in five-minute segments in 390 of the biggest box office movies from 1985 to 2010. The study examined violence in combination with other potentially risky behaviors and suggested that adolescents, especially teens who are attracted to “novel and intense experiences,” may be particularly vulnerable to imitating the behavior in these films.

For the full news release on this study, click here. To read the study published in Pediatrics, click here.

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