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Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 22:55 GMT 23:55 UK
Wrestling 'link to teen violence'

Researchers say study has "tremendous implications"
Watching American wrestling is strongly linked to violence, according to a US study.

Researchers also linked the often-bizarre staged wrestling shows with drink driving, drug use and carrying of weapons in adolescents.

A team at the Wake Forest University (WFU) Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina questioned 2,228 high school students about the watching of televised wrestling.


The level of vulgar language, verbal abuse and physical abuse modelled, with unrealistic outcomes, is astonishing

Prof Robert DuRant
WFU
The study, which will be presented to the American Academy of Paediatrics meeting in Baltimore on Saturday, says the watching of wrestling by males is associated with a plethora of anti-social behaviour.

Researchers said this included having started a fight with a date, been a "date fight" victim, gun carrying, fighting, chewing tobacco, drink driving and the non-prescription use of the amphetamine Ritalin, normally used to treat attention deficit disorders.

"This study has tremendous implications," said Prof DuRant.

Vulgar language

"It shows that exposure to this type of violence on television during this crucial period of time when a teen's cognitive, social and physical development is still being cemented, probably affects adolescents in a negative way.

"The level of vulgar language, verbal abuse and physical abuse modelled, with unrealistic outcomes, is astonishing."

But Prof DuRant said relationships between watching wrestling and "health-risk" behaviour were stronger among females than among males.

As well as the bad behaviour seen in the boys questioned, the high school girls questioned had initiated violence on dates as well as being a victim, and showed higher rates of gun carrying even in school, fighting, alcohol use at school, cannabis use, Ritalin use and riding with a drink driver.

More than a third of those questioned watched wrestling with a quarter of boys questioned having watched it six times or more in the previous fortnight.

Woman dangled

Prof DuRant was particularly worried about the violence against women shown in wrestling programmes.

"During one wrestling match a man dangled a woman upside down and then dropped her on her head, [seemingly] knocking her unconscious.

"This teaches an adolescent that it is OK to use violence to resolve conflicts and that women deserve abusive treatment."

"The bottom line is that we are affected by what we expose ourselves to.

"This study shows that the incidence of date fighting and other violence increases when the exposure to violence increases.

Entertainment violence

John Beyer, director of Mediawatch, formerly the Viewers and Listeners' Association, told BBC News Online it was important not to single out wrestling.

But he added: "It contributes to the overall level of violence in the entertainment industry.

"If they are showing correlated factors, the television companies who broadcast wrestling should be aware of it and perhaps consider what they are doing."

Channel 4 was recently warned about showing violent scenes of American wrestling when large numbers of children were watching after the Independent Television Commission upheld complaints about a sequence in which a wrestler threatened a competitor's assistant with a sledgehammer.

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See also:

12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Channel 4 hit by wrestling rap
23 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Violence is 'TV turn-off'
31 Oct 99 | Education
Children to learn about TV at school
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