ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (5): 611-623.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00611

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The Impact of Parent-Child Attachment on Adolescent Problematic Internet Use: A Moderated Mediation Model

CHEN Wu1,2; LI Dongping1,2; BAO Zhenzhou3; YAN Yuwen1,2; ZHOU Zongkui1,2   

  1. (1 Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behaivor (CCNU), Ministry of Education, Wuhan 430079, China) (2 School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China) (3 School of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China)
  • Received:2014-06-05 Published:2015-05-25 Online:2015-05-25
  • Contact: LI Dongping, E-mail:; ZHOU Zongkui, E-mail:


Problematic Internet use (PIU) and its detrimental effects on adolescents’ adjustment has become a hot topic of research in developmental psychology. Among many factors influencing adolescent PIU, the role of parent-child attachment has increasingly received attention of both practitioners and researchers over the past few years. There is substantial literature documenting that parent-child attachment has an important influence on adolescent PIU, but little is known about the mediating and moderating mechanisms underlying this relation. Under the basic framework of development system theories and attachment theory, the present study constructed a moderated mediation model based on the social development model and the organism-environment interaction model to examine the effect of family factors (parent-child attachment), peer factors (deviant peer affiliation) and individual factors (effortful control) on PIU and the underling mechanisms. Specifically, the present study examined whether parental attachment would be indirectly related to adolescent PIU through deviant peer affiliation, and whether this indirect association would be moderated by adolescent effortful control. This integrated model can address questions about both mediation and moderation in one model which was helpful to answer the issues such as “what works for whom”, and provide valuable information for early identification and prevention that cannot be obtained by separately testing the two questions. A total of 2758 junior high school students (mean age = 13.53 years, SD = 1.06) participated in this study. Adolescents’ perceived attachment to their parents was measured by the subscale of parental attachment adapted from the short form of Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA). Adolescent affiliation with deviant peers was assessed with deviant peer affiliation questionnaire. The short form of Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire-Revised was used to assess effortful control. Adolescent PIU was assessed with questionnaire for screening of PIU. All the measures have good reliability and validity. Multiple regression analysis showed that: (1) After controlling for gender, age, and socioeconomic status, the parent-child attachment has a negative effect on adolescent PIU. (2) The negative association between parent-child attachment and adolescent PIU was mediated by deviant peer affiliation. (3) The mediating effect of deviant peer affiliation was moderated by effortful control. The indirect effect was stronger for adolescents with low self-control than for those with high self-control. These findings contribute to our understanding of how and when parent-child attachment impacts adolescent PIU from different subsystems of development system theories. On the one hand, peer relationships relative to the parent-child attachment, may be a stronger social control factors in a way that parents and educators should be actively concern about whether the child was associated with deviant peers, and give reasonable guidance to help solve their confusion encountered in peer interactions. On the other hand, more attentions should be paid to the low self-control individuals (especially improve their parent-child attachment condition) and low parent-child attachment individuals (especially improve their self-control abilities). Last but not the least, the prevention and interventions for adolescent PIU should not only pay attention to the effect of family factors, peer factors (especially deviant peer affiliation) and individual factors (especially self-control), but also to the combined influence of those factors.

Key words: problematic Internet use, parent-child attachment, deviant peer affiliation, effortful control, adolescents