Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 582–593 | Cite as

Media Use and Adolescent Psychological Adjustment: An Examination of Gender Differences

  • Christine McCauley Ohannessian
Original Paper


This study examined media use and psychological adjustment (as indicated by depression and anxiety symptomatology) in a sample of 328 14- to 16-year-old adolescents. Primary goals of the study were to explore whether media use differs by gender, whether media use is related to adolescent psychological problems, and whether media use moderates the relationship between parental alcoholism and adolescent psychological adjustment. Adolescents were surveyed in the spring of 2006, and again one year later. Gender differences in media use were observed with boys spending more time playing video games than girls and girls spending more time talking on the phone than boys. Strikingly, none of the types of media examined was associated with depression or anxiety. Moreover, media use acted as a protective factor for boys. Boys who spent relatively more time playing video games and watching television had the lowest levels of anxiety, especially those from alcoholic homes. The opposite pattern emerged for girls.


Adolescence Media Anxiety Depression Parental alcoholism 



This research was supported by grant #K01-AA015059 to Christine McCauley Ohannessian from the National Institutes of Health. The involvement of all of the schools and students who participated is greatly appreciated. Special thanks go to Lisa Fong and Kelly Yannetta Cheeseman for their dedication to the project.


  1. Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353–359. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00366.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  4. Birmaher, B., Khetarpal, S., Cully, M., Brent, D. A., & McKenzie, S. (1995). Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED). Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.Google Scholar
  5. Birmaher, B., Khetarpal, S., Cully, M., Brent, D. A., & McKenzie, S. (2003). Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED). In L. VandeCreek (Ed.), Innovations in clinical focus on children and adolescents: A volume in the innovations in clinical practice series (pp. 99–104). Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press/Professional Resources Exchange, Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Bronfenbrenner, U. B. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bronfenbrenner, U. B., & Crouter, A. C. (1982). Work and family through time and space. In S. Kamerman & C. D. Hayes (Eds.), Families that work: Children in a changing world (pp. 39–83). Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  8. Carver, C., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 267–283. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.56.2.267.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chassin, L., Pillow, D. R., Curran, P. J., Molina, B. S. G., & Barrera, M. (1993). The relation of parental alcoholism to early adolescent substance use: A test of three mediating mechanisms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 102, 3–19. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.102.1.3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cicchetti, D., & Garmezy, N. (1993). Prospects and promises in the study of resilience. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 497–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (2002). A developmental psychopathology perspective on adolescence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(1), 6–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clair, D., & Genest, M. (1987). Variables associated with the adjustment of offspring of alcoholic fathers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 48, 345–355.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Clair, D., & Genest, M. (1992). The Children of Alcoholics Screening Test: Reliability and relationship to family environment, adjustment, and alcohol-related stressors of adolescent offspring of alcoholics. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 48, 414–420. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199205)48:3<414::AID-JCLP2270480321>3.0.CO;2-N.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Collins, W. A., & Steinberg, L. (2006). Adolescent development in interpersonal context. In W. Damon & R. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (6th ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  15. Dinning, W. D., & Berk, L. A. (1989). The Children of Alcoholics Screening Test: Relationship to sex, family environment, and social adjustment in adolescents. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 335–339. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(198903)45:2<335::AID-JCLP2270450224>3.0.CO;2-Y.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Durkin, K., & Barber, B. (2002). Not so doomed: Computer game play and positive adolescent development. Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 373–392. doi: 10.1016/S0193-3973(02)00124-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Faulstich, M. E., Carey, M. P., Ruggiero, L., Enyart, P., & Gresham, F. (1986). Assessment of depression in childhood and adolescence: An evaluation of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC). The American Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 1024–1027.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P. J., Linder, J. R., & Walsh, D. A. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5–22. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2003.10.002.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gore, S., Aseltine, R. H., & Colten, M. E. (1993). Gender, social-relational involvement, and depression. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 3, 101–125. doi: 10.1207/s15327795jra0302_1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 423, 534–537. doi: 10.1038/nature01647.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2007). Action-video-game experience alters the spatial resolution of vision. Psychological Science, 18, 88–94. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01853.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gross, E. F. (2004). Adolescent Internet use: What we expect, what teens report. Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 633–649. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2004.09.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gross, E. F., Juvonen, J., & Gable, S. L. (2002). Internet use and well-being in adolescence. The Journal of Social Issues, 58, 75–90. doi: 10.1111/1540-4560.00249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hodgins, D. C., & Shimp, L. (1995). Identifying adult children of alcoholics: Methodological review and a comparison of the CAST-6 with other methods. Addiction, 90, 255–267. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.1995.tb01043.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hunley, S. A., Evans, J. H., Delgado-Hachey, M., Krise, J., Rich, T., & Schell, C. (2005). Adolescent computer use and academic achievement. Adolescence, 40, 307–318.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hussong, A. M., Curran, P. J., & Chassin, L. (1998). Pathways of risk for accelerated heavy alcohol use among adolescent children of alcoholic parents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 26, 453–466. doi: 10.1023/A:1022699701996.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huston, A. C., Donnerstein, E., Fairchild, H., Feshbach, N. D., Katz, P. A., Murray, J. P., et al. (1992). Big world, small screen: The role of television in American society. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jones, J. W. (1981). The Children of Alcoholics Screening Test. Chicago: Family Recovery Press.Google Scholar
  29. Klinger, E. (1975). Consequences of commitment to and disengagement from incentives. Psychological Review, 82, 1–25. doi: 10.1037/h0076171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Koezuka, N., Koo, M., Allison, K. R., Adlaf, E. M., Dwyer, J. J. M., Faulkner, G., et al. (2006). The relationship between sedentary activities and physical inactivity among adolescents: Results from the Canadian Community Health Survey. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 39, 515–522. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2006.02.005.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox: A social media that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? The American Psychologist, 53, 1017–1031. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.53.9.1017.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lerner, R. M. (1986). Concepts and theories of human development (2nd ed.). New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  33. Lerner, R. M. (1991). Changing organism-context relations as the basic process of development: A developmental contextual perspective. Developmental Psychology, 27, 27–32. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.27.1.27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lerner, R. M., & Tubman, J. G. (1991). Developmental contextualism and the study of early adolescent development. In R. Cohen & A. Siegel (Eds.), Context and development (pp. 183–210). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  35. Marshall, S. J., Biddle, S. J., Gorely, T., Cameron, N., & Murdey, I. (2004). Relationships between media use, body fatness and physical activity in children and youth: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity, 28, 1238–1246. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802706.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marshall, S. J., Gorely, T., & Biddle, S. J. H. (2006). A descriptive epidemiology of screen-based media use in youth: A review and critique. Journal of Adolescence, 29, 333–349. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2005.08.016.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Muris, P., Merckelbach, H., Ollendick, T., King, N., & Bogie, N. (2002). Three traditional and three new childhood anxiety questionnaires: Their reliability and validity in a normal adolescent sample. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 753–772. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(01)00056-0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ohannessian, C. M., Hesselbrock, V. M., Kramer, J., Kuperman, S., Bucholz, K., Schuckit, M. A., et al. (2005). The relationship between parental psychopathology and adolescent psychopathology: An examination of gender patterns. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 13, 67–76. doi: 10.1177/10634266050130020101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ohannessian, C. M., Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., & von Eye, A. (1999). Does self-competence predict gender differences in adolescent depression and anxiety? Journal of Adolescence, 22, 397–411. doi: 10.1006/jado.1999.0231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Roberts, D. F., Foehr, U. G., Rideout, V. J., & Brodie, M. (1999). Kids and media at the new millennium: A comprehensive national analysis of children’s media use. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation Report.Google Scholar
  41. Rodney, H. E., & Mupier, R. (1999). The impact of parental alcoholism on self-esteem and depression among African-American adolescents. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 8, 55–71. doi: 10.1300/J029v08n03_04.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roosa, M. W., Sandler, I. N., Beals, J., & Short, J. L. (1988). Risk status of adolescent children of problem-drinking parents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 16, 225–239. doi: 10.1007/BF00912524.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ruble, D. N., Martin, C. L., & Berenbaum, S. (2006). Gender development. In W. Damon & R. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (6th ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  44. Sameroff, A. J. (2001). Developmental systems and psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 297–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Subrahmanyam, K., Greenfield, P., Kraut, R., & Gross, E. (2001). The impact of computer use on children’s and adolescent’s development. Applied Developmental Psychology, 22, 7–30. doi: 10.1016/S0193-3973(00)00063-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tebes, J. K., Kaufman, J. S., Adnopoz, J., & Racusin, G. (2001). Resilience and family psychosocial processes among children of parents with serious mental disorders. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 10, 115–136. doi: 10.1023/A:1016685618455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. U.S. Census Bureau. (2007). American FactFinder. Retrieved November 10, 2008, from
  48. Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2007). Preadolescents’ and adolescents’ online communication and their closeness to friends. Developmental Psychology, 43, 267–277. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.43.2.267.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Walden, B., Iacono, W. G., & McGue, M. (2007). Trajectories of change in adolescent substance use and symptomatology: Impact of paternal and maternal substance use disorders. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21, 35–43. doi: 10.1037/0893-164X.21.1.35.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weissman, M., Orvaschell, H., & Padian, N. (1980). Children’s symptom and social functioning: Self-report scales. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 168, 736–740. doi: 10.1097/00005053-198012000-00005.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Werner, E. E. (1986). Resilient offspring of alcoholics: A longitudinal study from birth to age 18. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 47, 34–40.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Windle, M., & Tubman, J. G. (1999). Children of alcoholics. In W. K. Silverman & T. H. Ollendick (Eds.), Developmental issues in the clinical treatment of children (pp. 393–414). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  53. Wolin, S. J., Bennett, L. A., & Noonan, D. L. (1979). Family rituals and the recurrence of alcoholism over generations. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 136, 589–593.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Wolin, S. J., Bennett, L. A., Noonan, D. L., & Teitelbaum, M. A. (1980). Disrupted family rituals. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 41, 199–214.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Woodward, E. (2002). Media in the Home 2000: The fifth annual survey of parents and children [On-line]. University of Pennsylvania, The Annenberg Public Policy Center. Available at

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations