Gun Violence In PG-13 Movies Has Tripled Since 1985
November 11, 2013

Gun Violence In PG-13 Movies Has Tripled Since 1985

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

The amount of gun violence depicted in ‘PG-13’ movies has tripled since 1985, the first full year the rating was in use, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

The international team of study authors noted that the amount of gun violence in the most popular PG-13 movies of 2011 and 2012 was much greater than R-rated movies of the same time span.

"It's shocking how gun use has skyrocketed in movies that are often marketed directly at the teen audience," said study author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University. "You have to wonder why we are seeing this surge in gun violence in PG-13 movies, when it isn't appearing in G, PG and R-rated films."

He added that the trend is especially concerning given previous research that has shown people who are simply shown a gun behave more aggressively toward others.

"Based on what researchers have found, it is not good for teens to be viewing this much gun violence in films," Bushman said.

While the Motion Picture Association of America, considers some material in PG movies “not be suitable for children," PG-13 movies “may be inappropriate for children under 13," according to the association. The MPAA has said that a PG-13 movie "may go beyond the PG rating" in violence "but does not reach the restricted R category."

PG-13 films are highly popular among moviegoers, with 13 of the top 25 films in release during 2012 carrying that rating, according to the MPAA.

"By the standards of the MPAA, PG-13 movies shouldn't have as much violence as R-rated movies, but they clearly do. It appears sex scenes are more likely to result in an R rating than scenes of violence," Bushman said.

The study was based on the examination of nearly 920 films that were taken from the 30 top-grossing films for each year from 1950 to 2012. Researchers identified violent sequences in the films and noted if a violent sequence since 1985 included the use of a gun.

The researchers found rate of violent sequences increased nearly four-fold from 1950 to 2010. Since 1985, 94 percent of the movies in the study had one or more five-minute segments that included violence and 700 segments included gun violence.

While R-rated films averaged about 1.5 segments per hour featuring gun violence, G and PG films averaged 0.4 segments of gun violence per hour, neither of which has changed since 1985.

However, for films rated PG-13, the number of violent sequences rose steadily from 1985 to about 2005, when it began rising even faster.

By 2010, PG-13 films had as much gun violence per hour as R-rated films. In 2011 and 2012, PG-13 movies actually surpassed R-rated movies with respect to gun violence, the researchers said.

"The trend of increasing gun violence in PG-13 movies is disturbing because of what we know about the weapons effect and because those are the films kids are most attracted to," Bushman said.

He noted that over 50 studies have shown evidence of a ‘weapons effect’ – when a provoked participant acts more aggressively toward others if there is a gun in front of them.

"Seeing these violent gun scenes in movies may be strengthening the weapons effect among young people," Bushman said. "In addition, these movies essentially provide young people scripts for how to use guns in real life, as we have seen in copycat killings. It is a bad situation."