As many as 17% of gamers that purchased Grand Theft Auto IV in Amerca were under the legal age of 17 years old, research has suggested.

In fact, it seems some children as young as seven were able to get their hands on a copy of the game.

The research from Nielsen goes against a recent FTC mystery shopper report that found stores had improved their ratings enforcement.

However, Nielsen suggests its the parents that need to be educated as to the the seriousness of the ratings system, and not buy M rated games (standing for Mature) for their underage children.

"61% of these younger gamers indicated that they purchased the M-rated game themselves, with 39% of the young gamers responding that someone else bought the game for them," said the research.

"Interestingly enough, parents/guardians were pegged as the biggest facilitators for getting the controversial game into the hands of these young respondents, garnering 80% of the response. Friends, siblings and other relatives rounded out the other 20% of the response."

Elsewhere in the report, it also revealed that episodic DLC for GTA IV on Xbox 360 was a factor for people choosing which format to purchase for.

25% of people cited the DLC, while 64% stated that they just preferred the Xbox 360 over the PlayStation 3.