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Friends, fun, frustration and fantasy: Child motivations for video game play

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Abstract

Although a considerable amount of attention has examined potential positive and negative consequences of video game play in children, relatively little research has examined children’s motivations for using games. The current study hopes to address this gap in the literature by examining children’s motivations for video game play in a large sample of youth (n = 1254). Results indicated that video game use was common, and often a social activity. Social play was mainly predicted by motivations related to socialization, fun/challenge and current stress level. Preference for violent games was more common in males and predicted by fun/challenge motivations and beliefs such games could be cathartic for stress. Children with clinically elevated levels of depressive and ADHD symptoms did not play more games, or more violent games, but were more inclined to endorse catharsis motivations for video game use. Results from this study provide understanding of what motivates children to use games, and how the motivations of children with symptoms of psychosocial problems (as identified via subscales of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist) may differ from others.

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Notes

  1. Despite that most concerns regarding video games focus on children, most of the research done has actually been on college students particularly in the realm of aggression. This is of particular importance as meta-analytic reviews suggest that studies of college students display greater effect sizes than do those of children (e.g., Sherry 2007) the inverse of what would be expected under developmental theories that posit children are more easily influenced than adults. The effects for college students may be explained by the high potential for demand characteristics, particularly in experimental studies, and the degree to which many college students may already have been taught the hypotheses of the studies in classes they have attended. These issues point out the importance of distinguishing studies with college students from those with children and not generalizing one to the other. We find that, historically, an academic field highly dependent on college student research using controversial “aggression” measures has been readily generalized to youth violence despite the inability of most of the research to be so generalized.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Ferguson.

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Ferguson, C.J., Olson, C.K. Friends, fun, frustration and fantasy: Child motivations for video game play. Motiv Emot 37, 154–164 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-012-9284-7

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