•This is the first study to explore the mediation role of distress intolerance in the relationship between emotional dysregulation and Problematic Internet Use (PIU).
•Relationships between distress intolerance and PIU were supported.
•The finding of this study indicate that distress intolerance plays a more significant mediating role than metacognition in the relationship between emotional dysregulation and PIU.
•Targeting distress intolerance may help reduce PIU.
Given the relevance of problematic Internet use (PIU) to everyday life, its relationship to emotional dysregulation and the importance of metacognitions and distress intolerance in process and intermediaries research, this study examined which of metacognitions and distress intolerance acts as an intermediary between emotional dysregulation and PIU.
In the current study, 413 undergraduate students from the University of Tehran, Iran (202 females; mean age = 20.13) voluntarily completed a questionnaire package which included the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS), Metacognitions Questionnaire 30 (MCQ-30(, and Distress Tolerance Scale (DTS). The data were then analyzed using structural equation modeling by LISREL software.
Significant correlations were found between PIU and emotional dysregulation and both distress intolerance and metacognitions (P < 0.001). Structural equation modeling and path analysis results fit well to the data (χ2/df = 1.73; p < 0.001; RMSEA = 0.05; SRMR = 0.04; CFI = 0.97; NFI = 0.95). The results of the mediational model indicated that emotional dysregulation has an indirect impact via metacognition (β = 0.31; SE = 0.02) and distress tolerance (β = − 0.60; SE = 0.03) on PIU. The analysis also revealed a significant direct impact of emotional dysregulation on PIU, although this impact is much less than the indirect impact. The variables in this model accounted for 62% of the variance in participants’ PIU levels.
The results of this study provide evidence for the impact of emotional dysregulation on PIU through metacognitions and distress intolerance. Also, these findings emphasize that distress intolerance has a more significant mediating role than metacognition in the relationship between emotional dysregulation and PIU.
Problematic internet use