Interparental conflict and adolescent internet addiction: The mediating role of emotional insecurity and the moderating role of big five personality traits | Example Psychology Essay

The summarised article investigated the mediating role of emotional insecurity in relationship between interparental conflict and adolescent internet addiction. Additionally, the study explored whether this mediating process was moderated by big five personality traits (Big Five). The Big Five or five-factor model assumes five broad factors of personality — openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism (Costa & McCrae, 1985, 1992). The Big Five have been identified by different authors (Fiske, 1949; Norman, 1963; Tupes & Christal, 1961), and research has provided strong support for their robustness and comprehensiveness (Digman & Inouye, 1986; Dyce, 1994; Piedmont, McCrae & Costa, 1991). However, criticisms of the Big Five regarding its usefulness in predicting individuals' behaviour have also been raised. For example, Epstein (1994) pointed out that the Big Five are useful for describing the structure but not the process: in other words, they offer good description for what people are like, but fail to effectively describe how they operate.

Existing research has demonstrated positive relationship between interparental conflict and adolescent internet addiction (Kuss, van Rooij, Shorter, Griffiths & van de Mheen, 2013; Park, Kim & Cho, 2008; Terres-Trindade & Mosmann, 2015), with interparental conflict shown to be a significant risk factor for adolescent internet addiction (Ko et al., 2015; Deng et al., 2012). Whilst previous studies focused predominantly on association between these two variables, current study investigated the underlying mediating and moderating mechanisms. The study hypothesised that the relationship between interparental conflict and adolescent internet addiction would be mediated by emotional insecurity and that this mediating process would be moderated by two of the big five personality traits, conscientiousness and neuroticism. As previous research produced contradictory results regarding relationship between agreeableness, openness to experience and extraversion and internet addiction (Zhou, Li, Wang & Zhao, 2017), the study did not hypothesise the moderation effects of these three variables.

The study was conducted on 1189 Chinese adolescents who completed questionnaires assessing their perceptions of interparental conflict, internet addiction, emotional insecurity and big five personality traits. After controlling for demographic variables, the results revealed strong positive association between interparental conflict and participants' internet addiction. This relationship was shown to be partially mediated by emotional insecurity, with the mediation effect accounting for 18.9% of the total effect. Mediation process was shown to be moderated by neuroticism, whilst there was no significant moderation effect of conscientiousness. Higher neuroticism strengthened the negative effect of interparental conflict on adolescent internet addiction via emotional insecurity, although the moderation effect was relatively small (R2=0.008).

The study had several limitations. Due to its cross-sectional design, it could not produce conclusions about causal relationships between variables. As the study was conducted on community sample, it is also questionable whether its findings can be generalised to clinical population. Furthermore, the study relied solely on self-reports in gathering information. Further studies would benefit from employing multiple reporting sources in order to obtain more comprehensive and accurate data.


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Costa, P.T., McCrae, R.R. (1992). The five-factor model of personality and its relevance to personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 6, 343-359.

Deng, L., Zhang, J., Fang, X., Liu, Q., Tang, H., & Lan, J. (2012). Perceived parental conflict and adolescents' Internet addiction: The mediating effect of adolescents' conflict appraisal and emotional management. Psychological Development and Education, 28, 539-544.

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Ko, C. H., Wang, P. W., Liu, T. L., Yen, C. F., Chen, C. S., & Yen, J. Y. (2015). Bidirectional associations between family factors and Internet addiction among adolescents in a prospective investigation. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 69, 192-200.

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Terres-Trindade, M., & Mosmann, C. P. (2015). Discriminant profile of young Internet dependents: The role of family relationships. Paideia, 25, 353-361.

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Zhou, Y., Li, D., Li, X., Wang, Y., & Zhao, L. (2017). Big five personality and adolescent Internet addiction: The mediating role of coping style. Addictive Behaviors, 64, 42-48.

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