Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Boyd


Problematic video gaming is a growing concern worldwide, with negative consequences on mental health and social functioning. This study examines the mediating role of distress tolerance in the relationship between childhood psychological maltreatment and problematic video game engagement. Childhood psychological maltreatment is a form of abuse that can lead to long-term consequences such as emotion regulation difficulties, which have been linked to problematic gaming. Distress tolerance, the perceived ability to endure negative emotional states, may influence how individuals cope with stress and engage in regulatory behaviors like problematic gaming. Using a sample of 474 college-aged individuals (56% male, aged 18-25) who endorsed playing video games for at least one-two hours on an average weekday or weekend day, this study tests three hypotheses: (1) childhood psychological maltreatment will be negatively associated with distress tolerance, (2) distress tolerance will be negatively associated with problematic gaming engagement, and (3) childhood psychological maltreatment will exhibit positive associations with problematic gaming engagement and a positive indirect association through distress tolerance, controlling for biological sex. The results support all three hypotheses, demonstrating that psychological maltreatment is weakly positively related to problematic gaming, moderately inversely related to distress tolerance, and has a weak positive indirect association with problematic gaming through distress tolerance. Female sex is moderately inversely associated with distress tolerance and weakly inversely associated with problematic gaming. These findings highlight the importance of addressing the role of distress tolerance and emotion regulation in clinical interventions for individuals with a history of childhood psychological maltreatment who report engaging problematically with video games. By focusing on developing healthy alternative regulation strategies and considering individual demographic characteristics, clinicians can optimize treatment outcomes and foster more adaptive coping mechanisms. Further research is needed to explore the specific motives and factors that may buffer against the development of psychopathology in individuals with problematic gaming behaviors.

Subject Categories



Distress Tolerance, Emotion Dysregulation, Gaming, Path Analysis, Problematic Video Game Engagement, Psychological Maltreatment

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota

Included in

Psychology Commons



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