Internet Addiction and Emotional and Behavioral Maladjustment in Mainland Chinese Adolescents: Cross-Lagged Panel Analyses

Xiaoqin Zhu, Daniel T.L. Shek, Carman K.M. Chu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Adolescence is a developmental stage when adolescents are vulnerable to addictive behaviors, such as Internet addiction (IA), which refers to pathological use of the Internet. Although there are views proposing that the links between IA and adolescent problem behavior may be bidirectional in nature, few studies have examined the reciprocal relationships between IA and other maladjustment indicators, and even fewer studies have simultaneously employed both emotional and behavioral maladjustment indicators in a single study. To address the above research gaps, the present study investigated how IA is associated with both depression and delinquency among Chinese adolescents. Two waves of data were collected at two consecutive years, respectively, with 1year apart, from 3,010 students (Mean age=13.16, SD=0.81; 57.48% boys) in four junior high schools in mainland China. These students completed the same questionnaire containing measures of IA, depression, and delinquency at each wave. The proposed cross-lagged panel model fitted the data very well, and there were significant positive reciprocal effects between IA and depression as well as delinquency after controlling for background socio-demographic factors. Gender differences were also observed in multi-group comparisons. Specifically, IA showed a stronger longitudinal impact on delinquency among boys than among girls. While depression significantly predicted IA in 1year among boys, such a prediction was not significant among girls. These findings delineate the bidirectionality of the associations between IA and emotional and behavioral maladjustment indexed by depression and delinquency, respectively. The findings also suggest that researchers and practitioners have to take gender differences as well as different developmental indicators in understanding the bidirectional influences between IA and adolescent behavioral and emotional development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number781036
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2021


  • delinquency
  • depression
  • internet addiction
  • junior secondary school students
  • longitudinal study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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