Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting
April 12-14, 2018
Presentation Title: "Empathy and Internet Gaming Disorder among Adolescents in China: The Mediating Role of Depression" (poster)
Authors: Yanzhen Zhang, Wei Zhang (South China Normal University), Chengfu Yu (Guangzhou University), Chuansheng Chen
The number of online game users in China reached 422 million; the proportion of adolescents in China remains the highest, according to the 40th China Statistical Report on Internet Development ended June 2017 (CNNIC, 2017). It is worth noting that the current internet games are full of violence, pornography contents and so on, which have a significant impact on adolescents’ empathy. Davis defines empathy as the “reactions of one individual to the observed experiences of another (Davis, 1983).” Adolescents once played internet game every day, living in the virtual world with indifference to their close friends and family, they could not understand another person’s situation from their perspective. Studies have shown that the cognitive function and emotional empathy of the addicts are significantly impaired, especially among alcohol and cocaine addicts (Maurage, et al.,2011; Dethier, Blairy,2012; Preller, et al.,2014). Whether Internet gaming disorder (IGD) will affect adolescents' empathy ability like alcohol and cocaine or not, should be verified by empirical research.
In order to better understand the relationship between empathy and IGD, it is necessary to further explore the mediation mechanism. On the one hand, there has been evidence for the association between Internet addiction and depression, indicating that a high prevalence of Internet addiction in depressive patients. Internet addiction was significantly associated with depressive symptoms and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. (Guo et al., 2012; Ko et al., 2012; Dieris-Hirche, et al. 2017). Internet addiction increases depression and hostility (Ko,et al,2014). Depression, on the other hand, limits the ability of individuals to have empathy, and the empathy of depressed patients is significantly lower than that of the control group (Schreiter & Pijnenborg, 2013). Therefore, this study suggests that depression may be an important intermediary variable in the relationship between empathy and IGD. Given the previous studies have shown decreased empathy in people suffering from addiction to alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine and in people consuming combinations of addictive substances, the purpose of the present study is to explore the relationship between empathy and IGD among adolescents in China, and whether depression plays a mediating role between both of them
A total of 2080 adolescents in China were tested with the revision of the Young’s Internet-addiction Scale, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Interpersonal Reactivity Index-C（IRI-C), and Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS).
Results showed that: (1)Empathy was significantly negatively associated with IGD(R=-0.20, P<0.001). (2)The effect of IGD on empathy was totally mediated by depression（β= -0.787，p < 0.001). There are significant correlation among IGD, depression (β= 0.19, p < 0.001) and empathy (β=-0.20, p < 0.001). Conclusion: IGD is an important risk factor for adolescents’ empathy, and depression is one of its main potential mechanisms. Social skills, such as empathy, mental perspective taking, and prosocial behavior, should be trained and intervened. At the same time, the interventions should also recognize the role of depressive disorders.