Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study
A large study of youths in Singapore led researchers to conclude that “pathological gaming” is not a phase that children pass through, and can render some youth numb to violence.
Seven U.S. and Asian researchers tracked almost 3,000 elementary and middle school children in Singapore from 2007 to 2009 in an effort to learn more about “addictive” video gaming and if it is a symptom of other problems or a problem in and of itself. The researchers found that children who were pathological gamers at the beginning of the study tended to remain pathological gamers throughout the study and that although a few stopped being pathological gamers, about the same number of youths became pathological gamers. The researchers used the same criteria for determining pathological gamers as used to determine addicts in other areas.
Although impulsivity is considered a risk of becoming a gamer, the researchers found that impulsivity increased after becoming a gamer. “Furthermore, depression, anxiety and social phobias worsen after a youth becomes a pathological gamer and improves if an individual stops being a pathological gamer. These findings suggest that pathological gaming is not simply a symptom of other problems but contributes to those problems,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers said their results need to be replicated, but that their finding that between 7.6 percent and 9.9 percent of youths in their sample were pathological gamers is similar to findings of studies in other countries.
Pathological gamers in the study spent more than 30 hours a week gaming, and they participated in more and more violent games, which in turn made them consider violence as normal behavior. On the other hand, the researchers did not identify any possible protective factors that would help pathological gamers overcome their dysfunction.