Watson, M. W., & Peng, Y. (1992). The relation between toy gun play and children’s aggressive behavior. Early Education and Development, 3 (4), 370-389.

Abstract:  To assess the relation between toy gun play and aggression, 36 3-5-yr olds were observed in free play in their daycare center and coded for amount of real aggression, pretend aggression, rough-and-tumble play, and nonaggressive pretend play. Based on a questionnaire completed by the parents, the children were also coded for the amount they played with toy guns in the home, the rated aggressive level of their preferred television programs, the rated aggressive level of their most preferred toys, and amount of parents’ physical punishment of the children. Of all children, 56% played with toy guns in the home, most of whom were boys. Multiple regression analyses indicated that amount of parents’ punishment strongly predicted real aggression, and amount of toy gun play strongly predicted real aggression in boys. However, when it came to pretend aggression, aggressive level of children’s preferred toys was the strongest predictor, while toy gun play negatively predicted pretend aggression. Toy gun play did not predict nonaggressive pretend play, but parents’ punishment negatively predicted nonaggressive pretend play. These results indicate that toy gun play and parental punishment are positively associated with a higher level of real aggression but not pretend aggression. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)