Adolescents who watch R-rated movies are more likely to initiate smoking and drinking.
As reported in the January/February 2002 issue of Effective Clinical Practice, children who are allowed to watch R-rated movies are three times more likely to smoke or drink alcohol compared to those who are never allowed to watch them.
The study, which surveyed 4544 students in grades 5 – 8 in Vermont and New Hampshire, found that while one-third of the children with unrestricted viewing privileges had tried smoking, only 2% of those who were never allowed to watch R-rated movies had tried it. The figures were similar for trying alcohol, 46% without unrestricted viewing versus 4% for those with complete restrictions.
Even after controlling for other factors, including age of child, parental disapproval of smoking, peer and family smoking, and child personality characteristics, children who were not allowed to watch any R-rated movies were two-thirds less likely to smoke or drink compared with those students who had no restrictions on R-rated movie viewing.
This finding is supported by subsequent longitudinal studies including one that appeared in the July 2004 issue of Pediatrics (authored by James Sargent, MD at Dartmouth Medical School, and researchers from the Hood Center) that had similar results.