Adolescent Internet Addiction

The roles of Parent-and-Child Mental Health and Parental Internet Addiction in Adolescent Internet Addiction

Lawrence T. Lam

Internet Addiction (IA) is a growing problem particularly among young people. Mental health in adolescents, such as Attention Deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, and hostility, have been reported as co-morbidities of IA.

On the other hand, familial and parental factors of adolescence IA have also been drawing attention and there has been a growing efforts in this particular area of research recently. In previous studies, the author had found that parental mental health was related to their children’s IA and also a parent-and-adolescent IA relationship. To further explore the complex relationships among parent-and-child mental health, parental IA and adolescent IA, this study set out to examine whether the relationship between parental mental health, particularly depression, and adolescent IA is mediated through IA of the parents. Of particularly interest was the effect of parent-and-child gender match on these relationships.

Lawrence T. Lam

This population-based parent-and-child dyad health survey was conducted in a random sample of high school students and their parents.  Adolescent and their parents’ IA was measured by a well-validated instrument, the Young Internet Addiction Test (IAT), and mental health status of the parents was assessed using the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale (DASS). In total, 1098 parent-and-child dyads were recruited and useful information was obtained. Results suggested that the effect of parental depression on adolescent IA was mediated through adolescent mental health, mainly through adolescent stress (regression weight=0.33, p<0.001) and less so through adolescent depression (regression weight=0.19, p<0.001) or parental Internet Addiction (regression weight=0.13, p<0.001).

Further analysis revealed that these mediating relationships are more significantly manifested in the father-and-son and mother-and-daughter dyads.  These result suggested the relationship between parental mental health and adolescent IA is complex and adolescent mental health and parental IA also play an important role as a mediating factors.

In countries where there is a strong cultural milieu for parental influence on their children, particularly during the adolescence period, the results obtained from this study have a direct implication on the clinical treatment and prevention of Internet Addiction among young people. Internet Addiction in adolescents is not just a problem of young people, but a problem of the whole family. The behaviour is likely a reflection and manifestation of familial problems that exert an influence on the mental health of the parents and in turn affect the mental health of their children resulting in the Internet problems.