A new study claims R-rated movies that glamorize violence and crime inspire children under 17 to try alcohol.
A total of 6,255 children were surveyed, every 8 months for two years from 2003 through 2005, to find the relationship between R-rated movies and the probability of alcohol use.
The link was established across different levels of "sensation seeking," which are a tendency to seek out risky experiences.
James D. Sargent, a pediatrician at Dartmouth Medical School, who conducted the study, said: "The study found that watching R-rated movies affected the level of sensation seeking among adolescents.
"It showed that R-rated movies not only contain scenes of alcohol use that prompt adolescents to drink, they also jack up the sensation seeking tendency, which makes adolescents more prone to engage in all sorts of risky behaviors.
"There is another take home point in the findings. When it comes to the direct effect on alcohol use, the influence of R-rated movies depends on sensation seeking level. High sensation seekers are already at high risk for use of alcohol, and watching a lot of R-rated movies raises their risk only a little. But for low sensation seekers, R-rated movies make a big difference. In fact, exposure to R-rated movies can make a low sensation seeking adolescent drink like a high sensation seeking adolescent."
The Dartmouth pediatrician explained that high sensation seeking adolescents go out on the street and engage in risky behaviors, hence movies don't play a big role in their alcohol consumption.
Sensation seeking was based on how individual subjects identified with statements like: "I like to do scary things, I like to do dangerous things, I often think there is nothing to do, and I like to listen to loud music."
Sargent ended: "The message to parents is clear. Take the movie ratings literally. Under 17 should not be permitted to see R-rated movies."
The study has been published in the March issue of Prevention Science, a scientific journal of the Society for Prevention Research.