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Technology Addiction in Adolescents

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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00642

The Influence of Parental Control and Parent-Child Relational Qualities on Adolescent Internet Addiction: A 3-Year Longitudinal Study in Hong Kong

  • 1Department of Applied Social Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
  • 2Department of Social Work, East China Normal University, China
  • 3Kiang Wu Nursing College of Macau, Macau
  • 4Hong Kong Institute of Service Leadership and Management Limited, China
  • 5Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Kentucky Children’s Hospital, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, United States

This study investigated how parental behavioral control, parental psychological control, and parent-child relational qualities predicted the initial level and rate of change in adolescent Internet addiction (IA) across the junior high school years. The study also investigated the concurrent and longitudinal effects of different parenting factors on adolescent IA. Starting from the 2009/2010 academic year, 3,328 Grade 7 students (Mage = 12.59 ± .74 years) from 28 randomly selected secondary schools in Hong Kong responded on a yearly basis to a questionnaire measuring multiple constructs including socio-demographic characteristics, perceived parenting characteristics, and IA.

Individual growth curve analyses showed that adolescent IA slightly decreased during junior high school years. While behavioral control of both parents was negatively related to the initial level of adolescent IA, only paternal behavioral control showed a significant positive relationship with the rate of linear change in IA, suggesting that higher paternal behavioral control predicted a slower decrease in IA. In addition, fathers’ and mothers’ psychological control was positively associated with the initial level of adolescent IA, but increase in maternal psychological control predicted a faster drop in IA. Finally, parent-child relational qualities negatively and positively predicted the initial level and the rate of change in IA, respectively.

When all parenting factors were considered simultaneously, multiple regression analyses revealed that paternal behavioral control and psychological control as well as maternal psychological control and mother-child relational quality were significant concurrent predictors of adolescent IA at Wave 2 and Wave 3. Regarding the longitudinal predicting effects, paternal psychological control and mother-child relational quality at Wave 1 were the two most robust predictors of later adolescent IA at Wave 2 and Wave 3.

The above findings underscore the importance of the parent-child subsystem qualities in influencing adolescent IA in the junior high school years. In particular, these findings shed light on the different impacts of fathering and mothering which are neglected in the scientific literature. While the findings based on the levels of IA are consistent with the existing theoretical models, findings on the rate of change are novel.

Keywords: Internet addiction, longitudinal study, Family, Hong Kong, Individual growth curve

Received: 25 Jan 2018; Accepted: 16 Apr 2018.

Edited by:

Peizhen Sun, Jiangsu Normal University, China

Reviewed by:

Martina Smorti, Università degli Studi di Pisa, Italy
QI LI, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS), China  

Copyright: © 2018 Shek, Zhu and Ma. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Daniel T. Shek, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Department of Applied Social Sciences, Kowloon, Hong Kong, daniel.shek@polyu.edu.hk