Stetson Professors: Toy Weapons & Shooter Games Do Not Indicate Criminality

By on June 3, 2018 in WNDB News

DeLand, FL – Two recent studies published by professors at Stetson University indicate toy weapon play and violent video games may not be risk factors for later criminal behavior or psychopathy after all. 

In Blasting A Way into Crime: Aggressive Play with Weapon Symbols and Its Implications for the LawStetson University’s Christopher Ferguson, Ph. D., and Sven Smith, Ph. D., looked into the relationship between toy weapon play and concurrent aggression, and later violent crime. 

“In recent years, we have heard some people complain that boys playing with guns might contribute to what’s being called ‘toxic masculinity,’” said Ferguson. “Our analysis could not find evidence for this concern. It appears that playing with toy weapons, whether among boys and girls, is a fairly innocuous activity and is not associated with negative outcomes in kids long-term.” 

Ferguson and Smith’s findings were based on an analysis of data collected from the Bristol’s Children of the 90s longitudinal study. The study surveyed more than 2,000 mothers from the time that they were pregnant to when their children grew to be 15 and a half years old.  

When Ferguson and Smith first examined the data, there seemed to be a significant link between children’s play and criminality. But, when variables like gender, diagnosis of ADHD and diagnosis of depression were considered, the relationship between toy gun use and later teen criminality became “trivial in size.” 

“Parents can probably feel a lot better letting their kids play with toy weapons if their kids are so inclined. This does not appear to be a risk factor for negative outcomes among kids,” said Ferguson. 

In A Longitudinal Analysis of Shooter Games and Their Relationship with Conduct Disorder and CrimeFerguson and Smith analyzed the Children of the 90s data to determine what the impact of playing shooter games in childhood has on later adolescent conduct disorder and criminal behavior.  

Ferguson and Smith found that the male gender and early childhood mental health symptoms at age 7 related to ADHD, depression and early conduct disorder were indicators of criminal and violent behavior at age 15. Research shows exposure to shooter games resulted in no indications of later criminal behavior or adolescent mental health issues “at any statistically significant level.” 

“Our analysis adds to a growing body of literature that indicates shooter gameplay is not associated with violence or severe conduct problems among kids. If policymakers are serious about tackling issues of violence in society, they would be better suited to consider other issues that are more clearly linked to violence and conduct related outcomes,” said Ferguson. 

Photo courtesy of Igor Kardasov and


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