The relationship between parental emotional abuse and interpersonal competence and digital game addiction: A path analysis : Indian Journal of Psychiatry

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE

The relationship between parental emotional abuse and interpersonal competence and digital game addiction: A path analysis

Taş, İbrahim

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Indian Journal of Psychiatry 65(1):p 45-51, January 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/indianjpsychiatry.indianjpsychiatry_263_21
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Abstract

INTRODUCTION

The development of digital technologies such as internet and computers as well as facilitate the life of human beings but can also bring several problems. In this way, digital game addiction takes place in the literature as one of these problems. For example, online gaming disorder, which has been considered as a mental health problem by both the American Psychiatric Association (APA)[1] and the World Health Organization (WHO),[2] has been addressed with nine criteria in the DSM 5 (APA). These are preoccupation with games, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, continuing to play despite the desire to stop playing, loss of interest in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of digital games as the player keeps lying about amount of gaming. On the other hand, games lead to the escape of negative feelings, have problems with other people due to games and jeopardize of a significant relationship, job, or education or career opportunity because of participation in games within a period of 12 months.

It has been observed that family environment[3] and psychological problems experienced by adolescents are serious risk factors in the development of game addiction.[4,5] Emotional abuse—a deliberate and repetitive behavioral pattern of an individual that disrupts the behavioral and emotional functionality and overall mental well-being of another individual—includes verbal abuse, intimidation, humiliation, refusal and inhibition to give love, isolation and over-control.[6] Additionally, emotional abuse is continuous, repetitive and inappropriate behaviour that harms the development of mental abilities and mental processes such as intelligence, memory, recognition, imagination, perception, moral development, and creativity. Moreover, these behaviours inhibit and disrupt children’s capacity to understand their environment, to grow up safely and to make an impact in their environment.[7] Adolescents seek for trust and support, which they cannot get from their families in other media, but in the world online that provides them an opportunity to socialize.[8]

On the other hand, Interpersonal competence is an important skill in terms of the individual’s social adaptation and psychological well-being.[9] It has an important role in establishing close relationships increasing healthy psycho-social functionality.[10] Interpersonal competence, rooted in Thorndike’s studies in 1920s, is a multi-directional concept that includes dimensions such as initiating new relationships, self-revelation, defending one’s rights, providing emotional support and managing interpersonal conflicts.[11]

When the literature is examined, it can be seen that game addiction is associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,[4] social anxiety,[12] lack of social support from the family,[13] and inhibiting family attitude.[14] Emotional abuse is negatively associated with familial functions such as family life, parental care, family communication, harmony and reciprocity. Family functions have a regulatory effect on the relationship between childhood abuse and suicidal thoughts.[15] Moreover, there is a positive association between parental emotional abuse and internet addiction[16] and other emotional problems such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity, oppositional defiant disorder, behavioural problems, obsessive compulsive problems and posttraumatic stress disorder.[17] Personal incompetence is associated with Internet addiction,[18] loneliness,[19] interactions with the family,[20] depression,[21] and stress.[22]

Although digital game addiction has been studied with various variables,[4,5,12] there is a gap in literature due to the fact that it is a relatively new concept. The inclusion of online gaming disorder in DSM 5 (APA)[1] section 3 shows that more studies need to be conducted on the game addiction. In this sense, new studies are needed to fill this gap. Adolescents constitute the riskiest group in the face of negative behaviors, attitudes and moods associated with digital games.[23] This is because adolescents find easier to connect with others through games in the virtual world without having face-to-face relationship, they see their interactions in the game world as a way of dealing with real interpersonal problems, and they believe that with their good digital gaming skills they have the opportunity to earn the respect of other players and self-realization.[24] Therefore, it is important to conduct studies on game addiction on adolescents.

In the researches done so far, digital game addiction was found to be associated with the family functions[14] and social media addiction, another technological addiction, with family life dissatisfaction.[25] On the other hand, perceived emotional abuse from parents is an important predictor of the internet addiction,[16] and similarly, interpersonal competence is associated with interaction with the family.[20] Above all, family environment has an important effect on the emergence of digital game addiction in the adolescents.[3] Satisfaction with family and intra-family interaction can improve interpersonal competence,[20] as well as a protective function against digital addiction. This is because, adolescents who seek support and satisfaction cannot get them from their families and they spend time in the digital world.[8,25] Therefore, investigating the effect of parental emotional abuse and interpersonal competence on digital game addiction may facilitate a better understanding of the dynamics of digital game addiction and thus taking necessary measures against the problem in question.

The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between perceived parental emotional abuse, interpersonal competence and digital game addiction in adolescents. More specifically, this study primarily examines whether perceived emotional abuse from mother and father lead to a lack of interpersonal competence and digital game addiction differ significantly according to gender and grade level. Furthermore, it considers the role of both perceived emotional abuse from mother and father in relation to the interpersonal competence and digital game addiction. This is because the effect of perceived emotional abuse may differ from parent to parent. Additionally, the role of interpersonal competence on digital game addiction is investigated. A model was proposed to reveal the network of the relationships between the variables and the model was tested.

According to Figure 1, there is a two-ways relationship between emotional abuse from both mother and father. Emotional abuse from mother and emotional abuse from father affect interpersonal competence and game addiction. Interpersonal competence affects game addiction.

F1
Figure 1:
The proposed path analysis diagram. EAFM: Emotional abuse from mother, EAFF: Emotional abuse from father, IC: Interpersonal competence, GA: Game addiction

MATERIALS AND METHOD

The data of the study were collected in person from 360 high school students between January 2020 and March 2020 on voluntary basis. The study used correlational survey method. In order to explain the relationships between the variables; a theoretical model was proposed based on the literature and the proposed model was tested with Structural Equation Modelling-Path Analysis. Structural Equation Modelling is defined as a method of analysis that tests the suitability of the model obtained by the researcher to the model proposed and suitability of the theoretical models that explain the relationship between variables.[26]

Ethics committee approval (19/02/2019 dated, 2019/02 numbered ethics committee decision) has been taken from Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University. 390 data were obtained from the students. Some of the scales were found to be incomplete in 30 data and they were not included. In total 360 data were analysed in this research.

Data collection instruments

Game addiction scale

The scale which has been used in this study was developed by Anlı and Taş.[27] The scale is a 5-Likert type scale and it consists of 9 items and a single factor. It was found that, the common factor variances of the scale items varied between .191 and .579, factor load values of the items varied between. 437 and. 761 and item total correlations varied between. 340 and. 653. The fit indices obtained as a result of the confirmatory factor analysis gave a good fit (X2 (27) = 2.514, RMR = 0.045; GFI = 0.97; AGFI = .95; CFI = .96; IFI = .96; RFI =. 92; NFI = .94; RMSEA = .054). Cronbach Alpha internal consistency coefficient was examined for reliability analysis of the scale and internal consistency coefficient was found as. 81. Cronbach Alpha internal consistency coefficient was found as. 82 in this research.

Psychological maltreatment questionnaire

The scale was developed by Erkman and Görkem[28] and the short form of the scale was developed by Arslan and Kabasakal.[29] The scale has 32 items and 5 sub-dimensions. It was found that 32 items had a factor load of >.40 and these five dimensions explained 54.6% of the total variance in father form and 56.34% of the total variance in mother form. Fit indices obtained as a result of the confirmatory factor analysis were found to have good fit (χ2 = 1630, SRMR = 0.042; GFI = 0.92; CFI = .98; IFI = .98; RFI = .97; NFI = .997; RMSEA = .054). Cronbach Alpha value was found as. 88 for mother form and as. 92 for father form. In the present study Cronbach Alpha value was found as. 91 for mother form and as. 91 for father form.

Interpersonal competence scale

The scale was developed by Buhrmester et al.[11] It was adapted to Turkish culture by Baytemir.[30] The scale is a 5-Likert type scale and consists of 40 items and 5 sub-dimensions. Construct validity of the scale was examined with CFA and it was found that the scale had sufficient fit values (c²/sd = 2.27, RMSEA =0.064, SRMR =0.079, CFI =.97, NFI =.94, TLI =.96). As for reliability, Cronbach alpha values were found to vary between. 79 and. 86 for sub-dimensions and Cronbach alpha value was found to be. 94 for the total scale. Cronbach alpha value was found as. 90 in the present research.

Data analysis

Before the data analysis, the assumptions of the Structural Equation Modelling were tested. These assumptions are values such as linearity, multi-variable normality, single and multiple linear connectedness.[31] Kurtosis and Skewness values were examined for univariate normality and the values were found to be within acceptable limits as between. 056 and 2.116.[32] Scatter diagram matrices were examined for multivariate normality and linearity assumption and it was found that the matrices were close to ellipsis; in other words, they were found to meet the assumptions. The fact that there were not high correlations between the variables shows that there is no single linearity problem. Multiple linear connection problem was tested with VIF (1.049-1.790), Tolerance (.559-.953) and DI (6.983-19.874) values and it was found that there was no multiple linear connection problem.[33] When the data were evaluated as a whole, they were found to be suitable for path analysis. SPPS 25 package program and AMOS 25 package program were used in data analysis.

RESULTS

Results on the analysis of sociodemographic characteristics

Digital game addiction (t = -5.86, P <.001) and perceived emotional abuse from father (t = -3.08, P <.01) differ significantly by gender. Game addiction level of males (X = 18.71) is significantly higher than females (X = 15.01). Likewise, the level of perceived abuse from father is higher in males (X¯ = 53.48) than females (X¯ = 48.71). Digital game addiction (F = 4.77, P < .01) and perceived emotional abuse from mother (F = 3.29, P <.05) differ significantly according to grade level. The homogeneity of variances was tested before proceeding to the multiple comparison analysis. After it was seen that the variances were homogeneous, the difference between groups was examined with the Bonferroni test. According to the Bonferroni multiple comparison test, digital game addiction levels of 9th grades (X¯ = 17.92) and 10th grades (X¯ = 17.69) are higher than 11th grades (X¯ = 15.15). The level of abuse perceived by 10th grades from mother ( = 54.11) is significantly higher than 12th grades ( = 47.22).

Before the model was tested, statistical descriptions of the variables and the correlation between variables were examined. The results found are shown in Table 1.

T1
Table 1:
Correlational analyses

Results regarding the proposed model

Figure 2 shows the correlation (double-headed arrows) and regression values (single-headed arrows) of the proposed model.

F2
Figure 2:
Values of the proposed model. EAFM: Emotional abuse from mother, EAFF: Emotional abuse from father, IC: Interpersonal competence, GA: Game addiction

The values provided by the proposed models show that emotional abuse from father does not predict interpersonal competence significantly. In order for the proposed model to be considered valid, Chi-square value, fit indices, regression coefficients, correlation coefficients and variance values should be significant and insignificant parameters should be excluded from the model. Thus, insignificant parameters were excluded from the model and the results found are given below.

Chi-square value of the valid model is c² = 0.667; df = 1, P = 0.414, c²/sd = .667. When the fit indices are examined, it can be seen that the model has a good fit. (RMSEA = .000; SRMR = .010; GFI = .999; AGFI = .991; CFI = 1.00; NFI = .998; RFI = .986). Non-standardized regression coefficients (β), standardized regression coefficients (β), standard errors (S.E.), critical values (C.V.) and P values are shown in Table 2.

T2
Table 2:
Regression analysis results of the variables in the model

When the regression coefficients of the path analysis shown in Table 2 are examined, it can be seen that perceived emotional abuse from mother significantly predicted interpersonal competence (β = -.18; P < .000) and game addiction (β = 0.23; P < .000). It has been found that perceived emotional abuse from father did not significantly predict interpersonal competence (β = -.06; P >.05), while it significantly predicted game addiction (β = 0.15; P <.05). It was also found that interpersonal competence significantly predicted game addiction ((β = -.13; P <.01). Direct, indirect and total effects found as a result of the model are shown in Table 3.

T3
Table 3:
Analyses of direct, indirect and total effects between the variables

Table 3 shows direct, indirect and total effects of the model. In the interpretation of the effect sizes of standardized path coefficients, values <.10 indicate small effect, while effects around. 30 indicate moderate level of effect and values >.50 indicate high effects.[32] When the direct effects are examined, it was found that perceived emotional abuse from mother had a negative direct effect between low to moderate (β = -.21; P < .01) on interpersonal competence, while it had a positive direct effect between low to moderate (β =0.23; P < .01) on game addiction.

As perceived emotional abuse from mother increases, interpersonal competence decreases. As perceived emotional abuse from mother increases, game addiction increases. Perceived emotional abuse from father has a low to moderate and negative direct effect on game addiction (β = -.15; P < .01). As perceived emotional abuse from father increases, game addiction also increases. Interpersonal competence has a low to moderate negative direct effect on game addiction (β = -.13; P < .01). As interpersonal competence increases, game addiction decreases. When the total effects are examined, total effect of perceived emotional abuse from mother on the digital game addiction (β = 0.255; P < .01) is positive and between low to moderate. This result shows that as perceived emotional abuse from mother increases, game addiction also increases. Total effect of perceived emotional abuse from father on game addiction (β = 0.146; P < .01) is positive and between low and moderate. This result means that game addiction increases as perceived emotional abuse from father increases. When indirect effects are examined, it can be seen that the effect of perceived emotional abuse from mother on game addiction through interpersonal competence (β = .027; P < .01) is significant. According to this result, interpersonal competence mediates the relationship between perceived emotional abuse from mother and game addiction. The model created explains 15% of variance regarding game addiction.

DISCUSSION

In this research, the variables effecting the digital game addiction, which have become more serious problems in adolescents, were investigated. As the finds of the research; (1) perceived emotional abuse from mother directly affects both interpersonal competence and digital game addiction, (2) perceived emotional abuse from father affects digital game addiction, (3) interpersonal competence directly affects digital game addiction. (4) In addition, interpersonal competence mediates the relationship between emotional abuse perceived by mother and digital game addiction.

In the research, it was found that perceived emotional abuse from mother explains interpersonal competence negatively, while perceived emotional abuse from father does not explain interpersonal competence. This result is compatible with studies which are dealing with the relationship between interpersonal competence and parental emotional abuse.[34,35] Moreover, Bartle-Haring and Sabatelli[20] stated that interpersonal competence is correlated with the family interaction. Similarly, Baytemir[36] found that interpersonal competence increased as attachment to parents and satisfaction from family increased. Interpersonal competence includes important social skill dimensions such as starting new relationships, opening oneself, defending one’s rights, providing emotional support and managing interpersonal conflicts.[11] However, failure to receive emotional support in family environment which is the first place for socialization of an individual, and inability to establish positive relationships with parents and experiencing more serious traumas will decrease the level of interpersonal competence in adolescents. Besides, the lack of needed support from the mother, who is seen as the source of emotional support, means to be exposed to emotional abuse from the mother and may lead to interpersonal competence to be affected negatively.

Furthermore, in this research, perceived emotional abuse from parents was found to explain game addiction, to a large extent positively. Moreover, this result is consistent with the previous studies which are dealing with the relationship between parental emotional abuse and digital game addiction.[37,38] In addition, this result of the research shows parallelism with the Kağnıcı’s work which discussed internet addiction and perceived psychological maltreatment from parents,[16] and with Karacaoğlu’s work which discusses the relationship between inhibitory family functions and computer game addiction,[14] and Cavga’s work which investigates the relationship between social media addiction and family life satisfaction.[25] One of the changes in adolescent phase is the relationship with the parents. Relationships within the family, which are positive in normal periods, begin to become conflictual in adolescence and the satisfaction levels of adolescents from their families begin to decrease.[39] In addition to difficult experiences in this period, being exposed to emotional abuse, in other words, being exposed to verbal abuse, being humiliated, and not being loved, being excluded or being under excessive pressure in family environment as a safe harbour, may cause adolescents to move away from the family environment and to focus on different environments. It can be seen that one of these environments is virtual world.[15] The adolescent can see the interactions in game world as a way to cope with real interpersonal problems, like family problems, and can try to earn the respect they cannot get from their family from others.[24] Therefore, psychological maltreatment from parents is evaluated as the most destructive and harming among all maltreatments.[34] Adolescents exposed to parental emotional abuse are in search of getting away from these problems in digital world. They can also experience positive emotions such as achievement and respect. These situations can cause adolescents to become addicted to digital games.

In this study, interpersonal competence was found to have a negative effect on game addiction. Moreover, it was determined that interpersonal competence mediated the relationship between psychological abuse perceived from the mother and digital game addiction. This result is in parallel with Lee, Ko and Lee’s study in which the relationship between interpersonal competence and online game addiction is discussed[40] and Lemmens, Valkenburg and Peter’s study which discusses the causes and results of pathological gaming,[3,41] Interpersonal competence is considered as an important skill in terms of individual’s social adaptation and psychological well-being.[9] Game addiction, is considered as a problem that causes problems in areas such as personal, familial, social, professional, and many other areas.[2] In addition, game addiction is addressed as a variable associated with psychological problems.[4,5] Interpersonal competence is also affected by intra-familial interaction.[20] Therefore, unhealthy family environments can reduce interpersonal competence in adolescents. Accordingly, it can be said that individuals with low level of interpersonal competence will be more psychologically problematic, their social adaptation levels and psychological well-being levels will be lower, and this situation will raise the risk of game addiction, which is closely related to psychological problems.

CONCLUSION

As a conclusion, the model proposed in the study was confirmed and it was determined that digital game addiction in adolescents was affected by perceived emotional abuse from mother and father, perceived emotional abuse from mother decreased interpersonal competence and low interpersonal competence effected digital game addiction. It has been found that interpersonal competence mediates the relationship between emotional abuse perceived from mother and game addiction.

Limitations

The results of the study are limited to the data obtained from 360 adolescents. This number is a limitation for generalization.

Another limitation is the use of previously constructed quantitative data collection tools. Such tools may not fully capture complex concepts like digital game addiction, emotional abuse and interpersonal competence. Additionally, social desirability may create bias when filling out these forms.

The socio-demographic variables used in the study are limited. This may create a limitation for a more detailed assessment of the working group.

IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Clinicians may consider the impact of perceived emotional abuse from parents and interpersonal competence when dealing with digital game addiction.

Psychological counselors/educators working in schools can carry out studies to increase awareness of the role of interpersonal competence and parental emotional abuse within the scope of activities to prevent digital game addiction in adolescents.

Researchers can test the results of the study by studying the relationship between variables in different samples (such as adults, university students, and young children). Thus, the results obtained can be generalized.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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Keywords:

Emotional abuse perceived from father; emotional abuse perceived from mother; interpersonal competence; game addiction; path analysis

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