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Relationship Between Maladaptive Cognition and Internet Addiction in Chinese Adolescents: Moderated Mediation Analysis of Online Motivation and Effortful Control

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This study explored the effect of online motivation and maladaptive cognition on adolescent Internet addiction and examined whether this process was moderated by effortful control. Cluster sampling was used to recruit 1221 middle school students as subjects (mean age = 13.45 years; 49.5% girls). The subjects completed an Internet addiction questionnaire, a maladaptive cognition questionnaire, an online motivation questionnaire, and an effortful control questionnaire anonymously. Results indicated that (1) maladaptive cognition exerted an indirect effect on Internet addiction via the complete mediating effect of online motivation, with sex, grade, and socioeconomic status controlled for; (2) this indirect effect was moderated mildly by effortful control and was stronger in students with lower levels of effortful control relative to that observed in students with higher levels of effortful control. Therefore, the results showed both mediating and moderating effects on the relationship between adaptive cognition and Internet addiction.

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    There are some online motivation measurements for different areas of Internet usage such as online learning motivation (Chen and Jang 2010), online consumption motivation (Seo and Green 2008), and online community motivation (Wang and Fesenmaier 2003). However, no specific questionnaire for OM has been developed, especially for negative motivation.


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The work was supported by a Grant from National Social Science Foundation of China (Grant Number: 16CSH050) and a Grant from the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No.: ZYGX2015J167).

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Correspondence to Qin Zhang.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Informed Consent

All participants gave written informed consent, and were ensured complete anonymity. Participation was voluntary, and students were given information about adolescent mental health resources upon completing the study.

Human Subjects Approval Statement

This study was a cross-sectional survey, and data collection occurred within the context of a general course on mental health. The research was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, China.

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Zhang, Q., Wang, Y., Luo, Y. et al. Relationship Between Maladaptive Cognition and Internet Addiction in Chinese Adolescents: Moderated Mediation Analysis of Online Motivation and Effortful Control. Int J Ment Health Addiction 18, 149–159 (2020).

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  • Maladaptive cognition
  • Internet addiction
  • Online motivation
  • Effortful control
  • Moderated mediation