Associations Between Violent Video Gaming, Empathic Concern, and Prosocial Behavior Toward Strangers, Friends, and Family Members


Emerging adulthood, Media violence, Video games, Empathy, Prosocial behavior


Exposure to media violence, including violent video gaming, can have a cognitive desensitization effect, lowering empathic concern for others in need. Since emerging adulthood offers increased opportunities to volunteer, strengthen relationships, and initiate new relationships, decreases in empathic concern and prosocial behavior may prove inhibitive to optimal development during this time. For these reasons, the current study investigated associations between violent video gaming, empathic responding, and prosocial behavior enacted toward strangers, friends, and family members. Participants consisted of 780 emerging adults (M age = 19.60, SD = 1.86, range = 18–29, 69% female, 69% Caucasian) from four universities in the United States. Results showed small to moderate effects between playing violent video gaming and lowered empathic concern for both males and females. In addition, lowered empathic concern partially mediated the pathways between violent video gaming and prosocial behavior toward all three targets (at the level of a trend for females), but was most strongly associated with lower prosocial behavior toward strangers. Discussion highlights how violent video gaming is associated with lower levels of prosocial behavior through the mechanism of decreased empathic concern, how this association can affect prosocial behavior differently across target, and finally what implications this might have for development during emerging adulthood.

Original Publication Citation

Fraser, A. M., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Coyne, S. M., Nelson, L. J., & Stockdale, L. (2012). Associations between violent video games, empathy, and prosocial behavior toward three targets. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 636-649.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Youth and Adolescence




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor