Study Rasies Questions about Movie Ratings


You may give the O-K for your child to see a PG-13 movie, thinking the content is age-appropriate, but a new study says when it comes to some risky behaviors on-screen, there’s little difference between PG-13 and R-rated flicks. Amy Bleakley is a research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, author of a study in the latest edition of the journal, Pediatrics. She says a PG-13 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, doesn’t always stop the kind of material parents may think it does.

“We found that here was really no difference between PG-13 and R-rated movies with regards to which the extent of this content is feature, except with tobacco and explicit sex, which is more common in R-rated movies,” explained Bleakley.

Bleakley says the big question, even after releasing this study, revolves around how children process what they see at the movies – and whether they are 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. So, that’s our next step – we want to try and find that out.”

The study looked at 400 of the top-grossing movies released from 1985 to 2010. In nine out of ten, on average, the movies showed a main character involved in violence, and in just under eight of ten movies, the main character was in scenes showing other risky behavior such as drinking or sexual activity. Parents can review the Motion Picture Association of America’s definitions of what it intends each rating category to mean on the M-P-A-A website.