Multi-family group therapy for adolescent Internet addiction: Exploring the underlying mechanisms (2014)

Addict Behav. 2014 Oct 30;42C:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.10.021.

Liu QX1, Fang XY2, Yan N3, Zhou ZK1, Yuan XJ4, Lan J5, Liu CY5.



Internet addiction is one of the most common problems among adolescents and effective treatment is needed. This research aims to test the effectiveness and underlying mechanism of multi-family group therapy (MFGT) to reduce Internet addiction among adolescents.


A total of 92 participants consisting of 46 adolescents with Internet addiction, aged 12-18years, and 46 their parents, aged 35-46years, were assigned to the experimental group (six-session MFGT intervention) or a waiting-list control. Structured questionnaires were administered at pre-intervention (T1), post-intervention (T2) and a three-month follow-up (T3).


There was a significant difference in the decline both in the average score and proportion of adolescents with Internet addiction in MFGT group at post-intervention (MT1=3.40, MT2=2.46, p<0.001; 100 versus 4.8%, p<0.001) maintained for three months (MT3=2.06, p<0.001; 100 versus 11.1%, p<0.001). Reports from both adolescents and parents were significantly better than those in the control group. Further explorations of the underlying mechanisms of effectiveness based on the changed values of measured variables showed that the improvement in adolescent Internet use was partially explained by the satisfaction of their psychological needs and improved parent-adolescent communication and closeness.


The six-session multi-family group therapy was effective in reducing Internet addiction behaviors among adolescents and could be implemented as part of routine primary care clinic services in similar populations. As family support system is critical in maintaining the intervention effect, fostering positive parent-adolescent interaction and addressing adolescents’ psychological needs should be included in preventive programs for Internet addiction in the future.


Effectiveness mechanism; Family relationships; Internet addiction; Multi-family group therapy; Need satisfaction