Previous studies have reported that Internet addiction (IA) is an important predictor of aggression. However, little is known whether aggression is a risk factor of IA. This study aims to explore whether IA can predict total and sub-types of aggression, whether aggression also can predict IA, and the potential sex difference.
A total of 15,977 adolescents aged 12 to 18 were recruited though a stratified cluster sampling across five representative provinces in mainland of China. Young's Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and Buss and Warren's Aggression Questionnaire (BWAQ) were used to measure IA and aggression, respectively.
The prevalence of IA and total aggression was 16.8 % and 25.0 %, respectively. Binary logistic regression analysis indicated that IAT score was significantly associated with total and five sub-types of aggression (P < 0.001). However, scores of physical aggression, hostility, and indirect aggression were positively associated with IA (P < 0.001), while verbal aggression and anger were not significant (P > 0.05). Moreover, the interaction of sex and IA was significant for aggression. Specifically, females with IA had higher risks of anger and indirect aggression but had lower risks of physical and verbal aggression compared to males with IA.
Cross-sectional design, self-reported information, and only Chinese rural adolescents.
IA is a strong risk factor of total and five sub-types of aggression, while not all sub-types of aggression are predictors of IA. Prevention programs for adolescents' IA and aggression should consider different aggression sub-types and sex.
Internet accessibility has increasing rapidly in recent years, especially for developing countries (Agbaria, 2021; Hahn and Kim, 2014). Although there are various benefits of Internet, a loss of control and excessive Internet use has been proposed as a novel psycho-behavioral disorder named Internet addiction (IA) (Lee et al., 2020; Yen et al., 2011), which is first conceptualized by Young (1996). The symptoms or signs of IA include an excessive occupation with Internet, a felt need to use Internet, repeated attempts to stop Internet use, a loss of time spent away from Internet, spending more time than planned on Internet, and feeling uneasy when being off Internet (Shaw and Black, 2008; Young, 1998a, 1998b).
According to recent reviews, the prevalence of IA is higher in SouthEast Asia than that in other regions of the world and IA is considered as a major public health issue in China, Japan, and South Korea (Kuss et al., 2014; Kuss et al., 2021; Pan et al., 2020). In China, the prevalence of IA has an increasing trend year by year (Shao et al., 2018), and the pooled overall prevalence among college students was 11.3 % (95 % CI: 10.1 %– 12.5 %) (Li et al., 2018). However, compared to ample previous studies for Chinese college students (Chou et al., 2018; Shen et al., 2020; Shen et al., 2021; Shi and Du, 2019), the characteristics of IA among Chinese adolescents, such as junior and senior high-school students, have not been clearly delineated (Lin et al., 2018). Adolescents are the most vulnerable group for developing IA (Arrivillaga et al., 2020), since they generally have changeability in cognitive control and boundary setting skills (Agbaria, 2021; Lee et al., 2020; Obeid et al., 2019). Therefore, it has great significance to explore the prevalence and characteristics of IA among adolescents, which is particularly important to prevent IA and its adverse outcomes.
This study not only contributes novel theoretical understandings of the relationship between IA and aggression, but also provides several practical implications for preventing IA and aggression. The findings suggest that IA plays a prominent role in total and five sub-types of aggression among Chinese adolescents. Therefore, IA intervention seems a promising strategy for preventing adolescents' aggressive behaviors. However, not all sub-types of aggression are predictors of IA, and early intervention efforts for IA should target to those adolescents who presented hostility, physical aggression, and indirect aggression. Moreover, sex is a key influencing factor of both IA and aggression, and males and females with and without IA have different risks of aggression. Thus, different strategies based on sex could be more effective and economic than one-size-fits-all method in developing prevention programs for adolescents' addictive and aggressive behaviors.