The relationship between impulsivity and Internet addiction in a sample of Chinese adolescents

4. Discussion

This study primarily focused on examining the relationship between impulsivity and Internet addiction among Chinese adolescents. As predicted, Internet addiction subjects were more impulsive than controls as measured by both the BIS-11 and GoStop. The Pearson correlation analysis indicated there was a moderate positive relationship between YDQ scores and BIS-11 scores, and the number of failures to inhibit responses. This study supports the concept that Internet addiction should be considered as an impulse control disorder [23]. Similar research in other countries has also pointed out this relationship. For example, a study by Treuer et al. reported that Internet addiction is a new subtype of impulse control disorder [18].

Since the BIS-11 is considered more of a trait measure of impulsivity, this supports the hypothesis that impulsivity is a risk factor for the development of Internet addiction. However, since subjects were not abstinent from Internet overuse, it cannot be ruled out that at least part of the increase in impulsivity in Internet Addiction subjects was due to effects of Internet addiction. Further research is needed to conclusively determine whether impulsivity per se is a significant risk factor for development of Internet addiction, or a result of Internet addiction, or both.

We also found that the number of failures to inhibit responses on the GoStop was correlated with BIS-11 personality factors, suggesting that this task may measure a similar construct of impulsiveness with BIS-11 inventories.

This study differs from previous studies showing increased impulsivity in that it included a variety of different measures of impulsiveness, including behavioral and personality measures. In previous studies a single measure of impulsivity was administered to Internet Addiction subjects. For example, Lin and Tsai examined excessive Internet use of Taiwanese adolescents and sensation seeking by using the Sensation Seeking Scale Taiwan version. They found Internet-dependent adolescents scored significantly higher in terms of overall sensation seeking and disinhibition than the Internet non-dependents, disinhibition being the most important predictor of Internet dependence [14].

In addition, our results indicate that some adolescents use the Internet excessively, and a total of 2.4% could be described to suffer from “Internet addiction”. Owing to the different sample, and different social and cultural contexts, and also the rigid modified YDQ criteria by Beard which we used, it is difficult to compare the findings effectively. Nonetheless, the Internet Addiction percentage varied considerably.

The students with Internet addiction suffered from comorbid psychiatric disorders, especially comorbid ADHD. The result is similar to another study which found significant associations between the level of ADHD symptoms and the severity of Internet Addiction in children [21]. Though we cannot conclude that Internet addiction is a cause or consequence of these disorders, clinicians must consider the comorbid psychiatric disorder in cases of Internet addiction.

This study used YDQ scores of higher than 6 as an indicator of Internet addiction. Although this questionnaire is a frequently used instrument for assessing Internet addiction, its validity as a diagnostic instrument has been questioned [3]. Future studies may utilize other measures of assessing diagnostic criteria for Internet addiction or severity of Internet addiction problems to assess the relationship between impulsivity and Internet addiction problems.

In conclusion, the results of this study show a specific relationship between impulsivity and Internet addiction and support the need for further research on impulsivity as a risk factor for the development of Internet addiction. Subsequent studies may investigate further the origin of impulsivity and its relationship to Internet addiction.


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Fenglin Cao, Linyan Su, TieQiao Liu and Xueping Gao

The 2nd Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, No. 139 Renmin Road, Changsha, Hunan 410011, P.R. China
School of Nursing, Shandong University, No. 44 Wenhua Xi Road, Jinan, Shandong 250012, P.R. China

European Psychiatry
Volume 22, Issue 7, October 2007, Pages 466-471

Received 21 March 2007;
revised 27 May 2007;
accepted 30 May 2007.

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