Exploring Individual Differences in Online Addictions: the Role of Identity and Attachment (2017)

Int J Ment Health Addict. 2017;15(4):853-868. doi: 10.1007/s11469-017-9768-5.

Monacis L1, de Palo V1, Griffiths MD2, Sinatra M3.


Research examining the development of online addictions has grown greatly over the last decade with many studies suggesting both risk factors and protective factors. In an attempt to integrate the theories of attachment and identity formation, the present study investigated the extent to which identity styles and attachment orientations account for three types of online addiction (i.e., internet addiction, online gaming addiction, and social media addiction). The sample comprised 712 Italian students (381 males and 331 females) recruited from schools and universities who completed an offline self-report questionnaire. The findings showed that addictions to the internet, online gaming, and social media were interrelated and were predicted by common underlying risk and protective factors. Among identity styles, ‘informational’ and ‘diffuse-avoidant’ styles were risk factors, whereas ‘normative’ style was a protective factor. Among attachment dimensions, the ‘secure’ attachment orientation negatively predicted the three online addictions, and a different pattern of causal relationships were observed between the styles underlying ‘anxious’ and ‘avoidant’ attachment orientations. Hierarchical multiple regressions demonstrated that identity styles explained between 21.2 and 30% of the variance in online addictions, whereas attachment styles incrementally explained between 9.2 and 14% of the variance in the scores on the three addiction scales. These findings highlight the important role played by identity formation in the development of online addictions.

KEYWORDS: Attachment styles; Behavioral addictions; Identity styles; Online addictions; Technological addictions

PMID: 28798553

PMCID: PMC5529496

DOI: 10.1007/s11469-017-9768-5