Internet Addiction and Psychosocial Maladjustment: Avoidant Coping and Coping Inflexibility as Psychological Mechanisms (2015)

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2015 Sep;18(9):539-46. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0121.

Cheng C1, Sun P2, Mak KK1.


This 6 month prospective study systematically tested some multivariate models that advanced the understanding of the psychological mechanisms underlying Internet addiction and psychosocial maladjustment. On the basis of previous theories, avoidant coping and coping inflexibility were proposed as underlying mechanisms. Participants were 271 Chinese undergraduates (75% women, Mage=20.49) who took part in both phases of this study. Structural equation modeling was performed to obtain the best fit models for both the cross-sectional and the prospective data. The cross-sectional model testing revealed statistically significant mediating effects for both avoidant coping (β=0.149 [95% CI 0.071-0.226], p=0.002) and coping flexibility (β=0.048 [95% CI 0.013-0.081], p=0.032). The prospective model testing further showed that avoidant coping mediated the relationship between Internet addiction and Time 2 psychosocial maladjustment (β=0.141 [95% CI 0.065-0.216], p=0.005), as well as that between coping flexibility and Time 2 psychosocial maladjustment (β=-0.096 [95% CI -0.161 to -0.031], p=0.015). This study was the first to establish theory-driven models, which unveiled an inflexible, avoidant coping style as psychological mechanisms that explained the link between Internet addiction and psychosocial maladjustment.