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The Cognitive Psychopathology of Internet Gaming Disorder in Adolescence


Adolescents are known to be an at-risk population for developing Internet gaming disorder (IGD). A recent clinical model has proposed that adolescents with IGD may endorse a unique set of maladaptive beliefs that underlie persistent and excessive involvement in Internet gaming activities. These include (a) beliefs about game reward value and tangibility, (b) maladaptive and inflexible rules about gaming behaviour, (c) over-reliance on gaming to meet self-esteem needs, and (d) gaming as a method of gaining social acceptance. A sample of 824 adolescents (402 male and 422 female) were recruited from multiple secondary schools and administered a survey that included measures of IGD symptomatology, problematic Internet gaming cognition, and psychological distress. The results showed that adolescents with IGD report significantly more maladaptive gaming beliefs than adolescents without IGD, including those who play Internet games for more than 30 h per week. The size of observed effects were large. The strong association between gaming cognitions and IGD symptoms still held after controlling for measures of gaming activity and psychological distress. These findings indicate that adolescents with IGD have distinct problematic thoughts about gaming, and highlight the importance of addressing these cognitions in therapeutic interventions for the disorder.

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Correspondence to Daniel L. King.

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Financial Disclosure

This work received financial support from a 2014 Trevor Prescott Memorial Scholarship from the SA Masonic Foundation and a 2014 RIBG Small Research Grant funded by the School of Psychology, The University of Adelaide.

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The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper.

Ethical Approval

All authors complied with the APA ethical standards in the treatment of participants. This study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Subcommittee at the University of Adelaide, and the Department for Education and Child Development.

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All participants and parents provided informed consent and participants were free to withdraw from the study at any time.

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King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. The Cognitive Psychopathology of Internet Gaming Disorder in Adolescence. J Abnorm Child Psychol 44, 1635–1645 (2016).

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  • Adolescent
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Video-gaming
  • Cognition
  • CBT
  • Psychopathology