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The Wall Street Journal published a wonderfully counter-intuitive article yesterday on Chuck E. Cheese’s, the kiddie pizza-and-arcade parlor that, according to law enforcement officials, is “the scene of a surprising amount of disorderly conduct and battery among grown-ups.”

The paper goes on to explain the factors—-a combination of alcohol, children, and protective parents—-that create this tinder(toy)box. Writes the Journal:

Fights among guests are an issue for all restaurants, but security experts say they pose a particular problem for Chuck E. Cheese’s, since it is designed to be a haven for children. Law-enforcement officials say alcohol, loud noise, thick crowds and the high emotions of children’s birthday parties make the restaurants more prone to disputes than other family entertainment venues.

The environment also brings out what security experts call the “mama-bear instinct.” A Chuck E. Cheese’s can take on some of the dynamics of the animal kingdom, where beasts rush to protect their young when they sense a threat.

Stepping in when a parent perceives that a child is being threatened “is part of protective parenting,” says Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association. “It is part of the species — all species, in fact — in the animal kingdom,” he says. “We do it all of the time.”

Image by Flickr user downing.amanda