Films linked to violent crime

5th December 1997 at 00:00
Violent films do contribute to violent crime, say Government researchers. The + full details of a Home Office-funded study into the effects of film violence on+ juvenile delinquents will not be published until early next year. However, The+ TES has learned that the report is expected to reveal that violent films do + influence some young offenders, even when classified as suitable viewing for + teenagers as young as 15.Dr Kevin Browne of Birmingham University, who led the + research, has confirmed the report will show "some link" between violence in + movies and in society. His report is expected to suggest that youngsters who + already have a predisposition to violence - those from abusive family + backgrounds, for instance - are the most likely to be affected by film or TV. + Earlier this week Dr Browne met Home Office officials to present a draft of the+ findings. He and Amanda Pennell of the university's school of psychology were + commissioned by the Home Office two years ago to investigate the "effect of + video violence on young offenders". In the study, 40 violent offenders, 40 + non-violent offenders and 40 non-offenders were split into two age groups, + 15-17 years and 18-21 years, and each shown a violent film they had never seen + before. The chosen films were all widely available in video shops and had been + certified by the British Board of Film Classification as suitable for each age + group.Immediately after watching the film the youths were interviewed. Three + months and nine months later their impressions and memories were again + monitored. The criminal records of the offenders were also compared to their + normal viewing behaviour.The research aimed to examine whether violent + offenders view scenes of aggression differently: if, for example, they identify+ more closely with a violent character.The Browne research is likely to + reinforce the findings of another study published recently, which showed how + some 12-year-olds had fantasies about controlling people through violence after+ watching Pulp Fiction. Dr Greg Philo of Glasgow University questioned 10 + children, some of whom had seen the 18-certificate film up to 11 times. Dr + Philo said: "It seemed very unlikely that violent films would have no + influence. The children saw the killers as cool and exciting, while victims + were uncool." One child said he thought it "would be cool to blow someone + away". Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino, was shown on Channel 4 last+ month. Both reports reflect the Government's growing concern with violence in + society at a time when Home Secretary Jack Straw is cracking down on juvenile + crime. Estelle Morris, the education junior minister, recently contacted Dr + Philo about his work. Dr Philo is also discussing the possibility of + anti-violen ce education programmes with the Scottish Office and the National + Society for the Protection of Children. He said: "The children didn't like the + drugs scenes in the film. They were very clued up on drug dangers because of + what they've learned in school. But, as they themselves pointed out, nobody + talks to them about violence."He continued: "It doesn't mean that all children + will become copycat killers after watching a violent film. Children develop + complex value systems gradually. Clearly these films do affect their thoughts + and ideas." It is estimated that around a third of 8 to 11-year-olds have + watched at least one adult movie. The National Viewers and Listeners + Association estimates that children watch more than 1,000 shootings on + television each year.In 1994, research into the viewing habits of young + offenders by the Policy Studies Institute concluded that television and film + had little influence on their lives, when compared to experiences of life in + care or in custody. Their most-watched television programme was The Bill.

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