Young adults’ video games and internet use and its relation with self-perceptions, risky behaviours, relationships (Padilla-Walker et al., 2009)

This is reflects the reaction from gamers to the study and my reaction to the screwy database the academic journal is based from

This reflects the reaction from gamers to the study and my reaction to the screwy database the academic journal is based from

I realized that I haven’t played a video game since we got DSL, which was in november, and I certainly remember playing a lot of flash games off my laptop since getting it. The primary reason was that the computer where I play my games has Team Fortress 2 and ever since my brothers started playing, they’ve been hogging the computer for every freaking second.

Via gamepolitics, a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence from Brigham Young University has found that video game use and internet use has deleterious social effects on young emerging adults. Reactions has been in the WTF?! range which I guess reaffirms the study’s results in a bad way. My reaction is not towards the study, but to the screwy database that I can’t get an e-mail alert from them. I really hate it when I’m kept in the dark, how in 4chan am I suppose to keep up with the research literature?


The purpose of this study was to gain a clearer understanding of the pattern of video game and internet use among college students and to examine how electronic leisure was related to risk behaviors (i.e., drinking, drug use, sex), perceptions of the self (i.e., self worth and social acceptance), and relationships with others (i.e., relationship quality with parents and friends). Participants included 813 undergraduate students (500 young women, 313 young men, M age = 20, SD = 1.87) who were mainly European American (79%), unmarried (100%) and living outside their parents’ home (90%). Results suggested that (a) video game use was linked to negative outcomes for men and women, (b) different patterns of video game and internet use existed for men and women and (c) there were different relations to risk behaviors, feelings about the self, and relationship quality based on the type of internet use, and based on gender. The discussion focuses on the implications of electronic leisure on the overall health and development of young people as they transition to adulthood.

Here’s some news link from the Deseret News, Daily Telegraph and the university press release.

I was initially suspicious of their literature review about the three points of interest (risky behaviours, self-perceptions and relationship quality). However, my suspicions were wrong since most of the research involved internet behaviours (i.e. online relationships, online identity, and risk behaviours through the internet, such as expressing inappropriate things that you wouldn’t dare say in public), whereas they’re concerned about topics related to the physical world. But, they do acknowledge some research that looked on the relationships between video game and internet use with the physical world.

Something for those in psychology research, they’ve discussed about a theoretical model called the media practice model in which they’ve based their discussion on: “According to this model, who one is and the way one interacts with the world will influence what media an individual chooses. In turn, the way that individuals interact with and make sense of media will impact how they incorporate it into their daily lives, and will influence their behaviors and views of the world.”


Participants: 813 undergraduates (500 females and 313 males) spread across six colleges. Because I became aware of the study through gamepolitics, I’m kind of a biased in my judgement on their participant selection. 261 participants came from a private religious university on the east coast (S1), 307 from two large public universities in the Midwest (S2), 106 from two small Liberal Arts colleges on the east coast (S3) and 129 from a large university on the west coast (S4). There were concerns (from commentators at gamepolitics) that the results may have been influenced because of the geographical locations of the sample populations, specifically of the conservative and religious nature of some universities. I’m mostly concerned about the Midwest for some odd reason and the unequal sample distribution between the east coast and west coast universities. Other info: average age is 20 years for both gender. 79% are European American or Caucasian, 9% are Asians, 4% African-Americans. 90% are living outside of parents’ home.

Another note is that the sample is part of a larger project that is related to this study. Participants were offered course credit for completing the questionnaires, usual usual.


Since it’s part of a larger project, I’m probably sure the participants have a lot of questionnaires to answer and that this study takes some data and makes some analyses. So, I would become understanding if some topics related to emerging young adults are more important and therefore have higher priority in asking more questions than others like video game use. You’ll see what I mean later on.

Video game use: 2 items on a 6-point scale.  Just two? Hmmm….. that’s not enough. First, it only tells about video game play for the past year, it does not differentiate participants who are hardcore gamers vs. casual gamers who may or may not have problems coping with their new lifestyles or some other third variable. Second, it only tells us their”current” play time, so playing video games at this time isn’t good, but what about for working adults? So, this measure doesn’t go far in measuring video game use. Just a retrospective year-long snapshot.

Internet use: One open-ended item for how hours they are on the internet. 7 items answered on a 5-point scale for the type of internet activity.

Risk Behaviours: six items from the Add Health Questionnaire. They asked about alcohol consumption (beer), drug use (marijuana and others), and the number of sexual partners. All answered on a 5-point scale and for the past year.

Self-perceptions: 10 items on a 4-point scale. The items looks at self-worth and social acceptance. But given that this measure comes from an unpublished article cast some doubt on its validity, even though it has face validity, it has to go through scrutiny before using it to infer results.

Quality of social relationships: Shortened version of the Social Provisions Questionnaire. 27 items on a 5-point scale. This looks at parental and friend relationships.

The measures used are subject to the usual methodological flaws in psychology (i.e. self-report, social desirability, using short versions of measures, remembering stuff for the past year not so accurate IMO, correlational analyses and online research, although for the last part that’s not my purview if they’ve done it right). IMO, I wouldn’t take this study seriously and I’ll wait until they’ve improved before passing judgment.


Participants completed the questionnaires online.


There are gender differences in video game use where there are men who play than women. As for internet use, there are no difference in time per week, but there are differences in internet activity. But I’m not going into details.

They analysed the data using ANOVAs. Again, read the article itself as I’m not sure if I’m reading it right because there was one paragraph that confuses the hell out of me. I’m not going to talk about internet use and the related measures because I’m more into video games.

Please refer to the participant paragraph.

Risk Behaviours: Main effects are found for different colleges and gender. Interaction effects are found for drinking behaviours, specifically there was a positive correlation with video game use among S1 and S2 participants. Also, there’s a positive correlation with violent game use among men. For drug use, there are main effects with positive correlations with the different colleges and video game use. In general, more video game use means higher drug use and that there are different rates of drug use between the colleges. For sexual partners, there were no main effects. Interaction effects are found: violent video game use and internet use is positively correlated among S3 participants.

Self-perceptions: For self-worth, there are main effects for colleges, violent video game use and internet use. Interaction effects were found for gender and video game use where women who play video games were found to have lower self-worth scores. For social acceptance, there is one main effect for colleges. Interaction effects have been found in that violent video games is negatively correlated among S3 participants. Another interaction is found in that women who played video games and violent video games were found to have lower social acceptance scores.

Relationship Quality: For friend relationships, main effects for colleges and gender. Interaction effects are found for video game and violent video game use is negatively related among S3 participants. For parental relationships, there were main gender effects. Interactions effects are found for video game and violent video game use among S2 and S3 participants.

They also discussed about results on factors like ethnicity and living outside of home. Not talking about that.


I find it pretty interesting that there are different outcomes in different geographical locations. Especially those in S1 and S2, my first thoughts were about the state of media literacy in those areas or the cultural attitudes, behaviours or norms towards the internet or media in general. As for S3, the small liberal arts colleges, there are a lot of specific relationships. If I knew where they are, it might reveal much of the nature of such relationships. Furthermore, it may also be that other media (television, newspaper and radio) in different geographical locations may be at work which can influence the results referring to the beginning about media practice model. An anecdotal point is the differences in television programming between the rural southerners versus urban Californians or maybe different advertising laws between the U.S. and Canada… or the level of otakuism in those areas or maybe the level of awareness of media violence research or (mumbling). Anyways, the authors did not expected to find such differences (IMO, I would) and so didn’t have much to explain.

I don’t find it surprising about the negative correlation between self-perceptions and video game use among women. Obviously, video games are a male-oriented media, so girl gamers might be feeling underappreciated by those of the opposite gender (sexual harassment, I guess) and the same sex (teasing for playing men’s stuff). But then again, it could be considered a “comfort food”, if they’re feeling bad and play long hours of video games and what not. I’m hoping in the near future these kinds of video game stereotypes would erode, as it was back then when it was seen as only for geeks or kids.

The authors wrote some interesting stuff about video games role in young adults’ transition into full adulthood and autonomy, such as relationship development, whether men would want to spend time with video games or their girlfriend and it can’t be both since it is very likely that said girlfriend would not share the same interest or men might have a lower interest in romantic relationships (IMO). Identity development, the authors contend that young adults’ personality might have gotten some influence from the media and there are some worries that violent video games might have a direct impact on identity development, mainly through emulation and character identification. There has been research that reckless virtual driving also has an impact on real world reckless driving. But, I wouldn’t go far about character identification; we may have borrowed some one-liners or some behaviours from famous characters. But, I believe most people would emulate such things in a fun and harmless situation or where it is appropriate.

The authors wrote limitations that should be aware of. This is a correlational study, so causal relationships cannot be inferred. It cannot be generalized to young adults, since they’ve studied college students who are mostly white. They’ve discussed about studying young adults who did not went into college and this is quite fascinating to see since working young adults have a bigger discretionary income and may have bigger freedom in indulging themselves. Too few items in assessing video game play, as I mentioned earlier. Well the take home message is that there are suggestions, but no strong evidence, that video games may have associations to problems other than violent video game increasing aggression. But then again, video games and much like everything in life, it has its pros and cons.

Padilla-Walker, L. M., Nelson, L. J., Carroll, J. S.,  and Jensen, A. C. (2009). More Than a Just a Game: Video Game and Internet Use During Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence,


5 thoughts on “Young adults’ video games and internet use and its relation with self-perceptions, risky behaviours, relationships (Padilla-Walker et al., 2009)

  1. Pingback: Family fun videogames a benefit for daughters and parents (Coyne et al., 2011) « VG Researcher

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