A month ago came news of a just released study in the scientific journal Pediatrics. American and Dutch university researchers found that over the past two decades, gun violence in PG-13 rated films has more than tripled, and contained “as much or more violence as R-rated films”.
Now, the same group behind that study have released results of a new one – this time dealing with the issues of sex, violence, tobacco and alcohol use in PG-13 films. Researchers examined 390 movies drawn from the 30 top-grossing movies each year from 1985, the first full year that the PG-13 rating was installed.
90% of the top-grossing movies from 1985-2010 feature main characters intentionally committing at least one act of violence, in 77.4% of the movies those characters also engage in sexual behaviors, consume alcohol, or smoke. Both rates have actually stayed fairly stable over the period.
One major change though is smoking which has declined considerably – dropping from 68% of films studied from 1985 to just 21.4% of films in 2010. Alcohol use is also down from 89.6% to 67.3% over the same period.
85% of PG-13 movies contained sexual content compared with 81% of R rated movies. It also turns out more than half of the highest grossing PG-13 movies over the past 25 years featured characters acting violently while also drinking, engaging in sexual behavior or smoking.
The study’s lead author Amy Bleakley says: “These are risky behaviors that teens have been known to engage in – behaviors like smoking, drinking and sex. We know there’s evidence that teens imitate what they see on screen, which is problematic given that these behaviors are linked with violence. It seems like [the ratings system] is not necessarily doing the job it set out to do in terms of shielding youth from inappropriate content.”