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Study: Little Difference in Risky Behaviors in PG-13, R Movies

PHOTO: A study in the journal Pediatrics shows some remarkably similar risky behaviors displayed by characters in 'PG-13' and 'R'-rated movies. Photo credit: Tim Psych
PHOTO: A study in the journal Pediatrics shows some remarkably similar risky behaviors displayed by characters in 'PG-13' and 'R'-rated movies. Photo credit: Tim Psych
January 13, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Many Missouri parents would never think of allowing their young teens to see an R-rated movie, but the latest study shows those films have much of the same types of content as those that are rated PG-13. According to Amy Bleakley, senior research scientist at the Annenberg Center for Public Policy, the PG-13 rating, determined by the motion picture industry, doesn't always prevent showing the kinds of material parents may think it does block.

"We found that there was really no difference between 'PG-13' and 'R'-rated movies with regards to the extent to which this content is featured, except with tobacco and explicit sex, which is more common in R-rated movies."

The study found that in 400 of the top movies from the past 15 years, a main character was involved in violence as well as a second risky behavior - such as drinking, smoking or sexual activity - 80 percent of the time, whether the film was rated PG-13 or R.

Bleakley said the big question in the aftermath of this study revolves around how children process what they see at the movies - and whether they're more likely to act out on a broad range of risky behaviors.

"We know that when kids see just tobacco on-screen, they're more likely to initiate smoking, and when, you know, they see alcohol on screen they're more likely to drink, and so on, but we don't know the effect of these clustered behaviors," she said. "So, that's our next step. We want to try and find that out."

Bleakley's study on film ratings was recently featured in the journal Pediatrics.

The full study is at bit.ly/1e1yDzv.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO