The Moderating Role of Video Game Play in the Relationship Between Stress and Externalising Behaviours in Adolescent Males

The Moderating Role of Video Game Play in the Relationship Between Stress and Externalising Behaviours in Adolescent Males

Michael Yates (Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK) and Jane Hurry (Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2013070102


The focus of this research was to investigate whether video game play reframed into the context of cumulative stress could play a moderating role on externalising behavioural outcomes. A sample of 14-15 year old adolescent boys (N = 197) were administered self-report measures relating to video game use, cumulative stress and externalising behaviours. Results showed that video gaming, as measured by time spent playing or genre played had no relationship with externalising behaviours in general. This was true when considered within the context of stress also. Although video game use was not related to conduct disorder, a positive relationship with hyperactivity was found. This may signify that game play is attractive to adolescents who are hyperactive, and that hyperactivity could affect the propensity to play more. Implications of these findings for future research are discussed.
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The debate over how video game playing can affect outcome behaviours has been vociferous and often full of polarizing rhetoric (Gentile, 2011, Olson, Kutner, & Warner, 2008). The traditional focus has surrounded violent video games; with research attempting to show that exposure to violent content in gaming can lead to a tangible increase in violent behaviours and conduct (Anderson et al., 2010, Bensley & van Eenwyck, 2001). Using the notion of Social Learning theory as its foundation (Bandura 1973), this research equates exposure to violent gaming content with exposure to other negative real life stressors (Anderson & Bushman 2002). The suggestion is that behaviours are learnt from exposure to the social environment, and that negative influences will directly impact subsequent learnt behaviours (Gentile, 2011).

However more recent research has challenged this position (Ferguson 2011; Olson 2010, Sherry 2007). In particular, it has been suggested that the effects of video gaming on human behaviour should be considered in the context of life stress (Ferguson & Dyck 2012). Moving away from a focus on genre type, emphasis has been placed on the positive qualities within gaming (of all genres), which give users control, a space for competition and reward and an opportunity for teamwork and achievement (Przybylski, Ryan & Rigby 2009; Colwell 2007). Building on work that suggests that cumulative life stress lies at the foundation of aggressive externalising behaviours in adolescence, it has been suggested that game play could in fact generate positive behavioural outcomes by improving mood and reducing the effects of external stress (Peng, Lin, Pfeiffer & Winn, 2012).

This research will test the two dominant models proposed in video game research. In particular, we will investigate whether video gaming, when considered in the context of stress, could in fact have a moderating role in reducing adolescent externalising behavioural outcomes.

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