(CAUSATION) The Consequences of Compulsion: A 4-year Longitudinal Study of Compulsive Internet Use and Emotion Regulation Difficulties (2020)

Emotion . 2020 Jun 18.
doi: 10.1037/emo0000769.


Little is known about how compulsive Internet use (CIU) relates developmentally to different aspects of emotion regulation. Do young people engage in CIU because they have difficulty regulating emotions (the “consequence” model), does CIU lead to emotion regulation problems (the “antecedent” model), or are there reciprocal influences? We examined the longitudinal relations between CIU and 6 facets of difficulties in emotion regulation. Adolescents (N = 2,809) across 17 Australian schools completed measures yearly from Grades 8 (MAge = 13.7) to 11. Structural equations modeling revealed that CIU preceded the development of some aspects of emotion dysregulation, such as difficulties setting goals and being clear about emotions, but not others (the antecedent model). We found no evidence that emotion regulation difficulties preceded the development of increases in CIU (the consequence model). Our findings indicate that teaching adolescents general emotion regulation skills may not be as effective in reducing CIU as more direct approaches of limiting Internet use. We discuss the implications of our findings for interventions designed to reduce CIU and highlight issues for future research.