Psychological Maltreatment and Video Game Engagement

Document Type


Publication Date



psychological maltreatment, video games, childhood


Playing video games has become a favorable leisure activity for many people around the world. An estimated 150 million people report playing video games as a pastime activity in the USA. For a minority of gamers, the amount of time spent playing video games can reach maladaptive levels leadings to impairments in social and occupational functioning; one such population is college aged gamers. Previous research has implicated mediating and moderating factors such as emotion dysregulation, and coping behaviors in the link between childhood psychological maltreatment and problematic gaming. However, the role of distress tolerance, a facet of emotion dysregulation, in this link is yet to be examined. Therefore, the current study aims to investigate factors that distinguish problematic video game engagement from adaptive video game engagement. Specifically, we aim to assess the mediating role of distress tolerance in the relationship between childhood psychological maltreatment (abuse and neglect) and gaming behaviors (adaptive and maladaptive). We hypothesize childhood psychological maltreatment will inversely predict distress tolerance, which in turn will be associated with two different outcomes (i.e., problematic gaming; adaptive gaming); Finally, childhood psychological maltreatment will positively predict problematic gaming through distress tolerance in a sample of college students. The results from the current study will influence the direction of future research that could potentially be used in treatments of traumatic childhood experiences and problematic gaming.

First Advisor

Beth Boyd

Research Area

Clinical Psychology

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