HannahKentProfessorKielyENGL1202-02Effects of Videogames onRelationshipsIntroduction Overthe last few decades the use of technology has expanded tremendously,especially technology that can be used in homes. Video games, which used to befound only in arcades, have now moved to homes all over the world. This lead toa fundamental shift in the video game industry (Zackariasson & Wilson,2010).
In 2009, 42% of households had a video game console and 68% of Americanhouseholds reported playing video and computer games (Entertainment SoftwareAssociation, 2009). It may be most surprising that 75% of game players wereover the age of 18 and that the average age of game players was 35 years old(Entertainment Software Association, 2009). Arguably, video games are not onlyfor children and adolescents, but adults too.
Video games are defined as electronic interactiveentertainment on a computer, game console, or handheld device.Research has been done worldwide to assess the impacts video game playing hason an individual’s close relationships and physical and mental health. In astudy assessing how such technology use affected married couples, when askedabout how they would feel if their partner played games on the internet, 35% ofthe couples disagreed about whether gaming was an acceptable activity or not(Helsper & Whitty, 2010), meaning that one third of couples have differentopinions about whether or not playing video games is acceptable. Thisdisagreement could cause relational distress. People who extensively play videogames may be at risk for seizures, obesity, and physical discomfort (Chuang,2006). It is estimated that potentially 3.
1% of adults in America may playvideo games compulsively (Ferguson, Coulson, & Barnett, 2011). In onestudy, the authors Han, Hwang, & Renshaw (2011) gave 2 individuals whoplayed video games impulsively Bupropion while using video games. Releasing thischemical into the brain is a technique that has been used in treating substancedependence. After 6 weeks of treatment, the participants craved video gamesless and played them less (Han et al., 2011). The success of this study impliesthat overuse of video games may be helped by chemicals that affect brainchemistry.
Video game use affects many aspects of an individual’s life and canhave both positive and negative effects on different types of relationshipsworldwide. Most research has been focused on the effect of videogame use on children and the wider impact of violent video game use (Andersonet al., 2010). However, there is very littleresearch on the impacts of the use of video games on adults and their relationships.There is also a small amount of research exploring the possible impact of overuseof video games on attachment behaviors.
Couple attachment is important for manyreasons. Also, secure attachment is related to higher mental health and relationshipquality (Butzer & Campbell, 2008; McWilliams & Bailey, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to determine if videogame use is associated with attachment behaviors in relationships. Thispaper will discuss how the frequency of video gaming, whether with a partner,or independently, or different types of video games may affect couple relationshipsdifferently. The paper will also discuss the video game use variables that mayresult in problems in romantic relationships, and whether the perception ofvideo games in the relationship makes a difference in its impact on attachmentbehaviors. The attachment behaviors to study include responsiveness,accessibility, and engagement (Sandberg, Busby, Johnson, & Yoshida, 2012).Attachment TheoryAttachmenttheory is the theoretical framework for this paper, which was originallydeveloped by Bowlby.
He proposed that a child created an attachment with its caregiver (1969). Hazan& Shaver (1987) extended this theory to continue into adulthood andproposed that couples tend to be similarly attached. Secure attachment providessocial support and security from stress (Ainsworth, 1991; Bowlby, 1969).
Thecouples shape each other’s attachment through their behaviors and coupleprocesses (Johnson and Whiffen, 1999). Qualitycouple relationships have healthy attachment bonds between the partners. Studies have shown that partners whoare securely attached have higher marital satisfaction than couples who areinsecurely attached (Banse, 2004; Senchak & Leonard, 1992; Butzer , 2008).
Insecure attachment styles, avoidant and anxious, are relatedto mental illness such as anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, andsubstance related disorders (McWilliams & Bailey, 2010). Insecureattachment is also related to lower sexual satisfaction (Butzer & Campbell,2008) and certain physical health conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, stroke,headaches, heart attack, ulcers, and high blood pressure (McWilliams , 2010). In another study, women who were insecurely attached scoredthemselves as less attractive and reported more infidelity (Bogaert , 2002). It is clear that secure attachment in couple relationships producesfavorable outcomes.
Secureattachment is created when a partner is accessible and responsive to the needsof their partner (Bowlby, 1973; Johnson, 2004). Johnson (2004) notes that a partner mustalso be engaged emotionally with their partner to create this sense ofattachment. When partners are engaged emotionally, they create a feeling of intimacyand connectedness that bonds them (Johnson, 2004). These attachment behaviors(responsiveness, accessibility, and engagement) predict both relationship stabilityand quality (Sandberg, et al.
, 2012). For this paper, responsiveness is definedas a partner readily responding to the emotional bids and the initiations forinteraction by his or her partner. Responsiveness is important because aconsistent safe reaction will help the other partner build safety and trustwithin their relationship. Accessibility is defined as a partner beingconsistently available to give attention to their partner. This is importantbecause if the partner cannot be present physically or emotionally and cannotgive the desired attention, there are little to no opportunities for bonding.Engagement is defined as the ability to feel close and connected with theirpartner during interactions. Engagement is important because it is a bondingevent that provides comfort to build attachment and closeness. Theseattachments behaviors are linked and occur together.
A partner first must beaccessible to be able to respond, and how they respond influences how close thepartner feels during intimate moments if/when they occur. (Sandberg, et al.,2012)Attachmentand Leisure ActivitiesResearchsuggests that shared couple leisure activities contribute to relationshipsatisfaction (Crawford, Houts, Huston, & George, 2002; Johnson, Zabriskie,& Hill, 2006). Onestudy found that when a couple was happy with the couple leisure activitiesthat they did together, they were more likely to be happy in their relationshipregardless of the amount of time they spent doing those activities (Johnson,Zabriskie, & Hill, 2006). Another study examining individual and coupleleisure activity found that when a husband, alone or with his wife, pursued arecreational activity the wife did not like, it led to the wife’s maritaldissatisfaction over time 5 (Crawford, Houts, Huston, & George, 2002).Since secure attachment is related to relationship satisfaction (Butzer &Campbell, 2008), this study will seek to examine whether leisure activitiesaffect attachment behaviors like they impact relationship satisfaction. This paperwill discuss whether a shared leisure activity such as video game use or anegative perception of video game use spills over to impact couple attachmentbehaviors. Videogaming, especially done alone, may negatively spill-over into couplerelationships by interfering with couple attachment behaviors.
If one partner is experiencingfrustration or anger during video game playing, this frustration may be carriedinto the relationship by the partner being less accessible, responsive, orengaged with his/her partner. If only one partner plays video games, the otherpartner may feel isolated and alone because the partner who is playing does notwant to stop playing and is not accessible or responsive. Also, if anindividual plays a violent video game, will his/her aggressive play carry overinto aggressiveness in relationship behaviors? Or, if the spouses experiencecooperation, teamwork, and success when they play video games together, willthese positive emotions and perceptions carry over into their real-liferelationship as increased attachment behaviors? Couple attachment is importantbecause of its relationship to mental/physical health and marital quality(McWilliams & Bailey, 2010; Sandberg, et al., 2012). VideoGame Use Effects on Relationships A few studies have found extensive video gameuse correlated with poorer relationship quality (Padilla-Walker, Carroll,Nelson, & Jensen, 2010; Schmit, Chauchard, Chabrol, & Sejourne, 2011).
One study looked at young adults andfound that video game use in young adults was correlated with poor relationshipquality with both parents and friends (Padilla-Walker et al., 6 2010). Inanother study, which looked at individuals who displayed gaming dependentattitudes and behaviors, (using abuse/dependence criteria from the DSM-IV-TR)and those who did not, found that dependent gamers were found to play videogames more and to have lower quality relationships with family and friends (Schmitet al., 2011). Some individuals enjoy playing video games for thesocial connection it may provide (Colwell & Kato, 2003).In one study, some individuals reported that they had better qualitycommunication and were more satisfied with an online Second Life virtualpartner than they were with their real life romantic partner (Gilbert, Murphy,& Avalos, 2011). This may indicate that as online relationships grow, the real-lifecouple relationship weakens. In fact, Hawkins & Hertlein (2013) haveoutlined a clinical treatment to help couples who report having issues relatedto video game use.
Research suggests thatextensive video game use is not problematic in a relationship where both individualsplay together sometimes or are both involved in frequent video game playing. Onestudy assessed problematic online behavior between marital partners and foundthat 57% of the couples reported similar internet behaviors, and only 35% ofthe couples disagreed about whether gaming was acceptable or unacceptable(Helsper and Whitty, 2010). Another study found that when both partners gamedabout the same amount of time, they had higher marital satisfaction thancouples where only one partner gamed, or where one gamed more than the otherdid (Ahlstrom, Lundberg, Zabriskie, Eggett, & Lindsay, 2012). This suggeststhat playing a video game together may have positive effects on somerelationships and their attachment behaviors if they can bond each other over ashared leisure activity. Some studies have found that when addictive behaviors,such as doing drugs or drinking alcohol, are matched by the partner, thebehaviors are not viewed as problematic in the relationship (Homish &Leonard, 2005). This indicates that when a partner games alone or when couplesdisagree about gaming, the relationship satisfaction suffers and the relatedattachment behaviors do as well (Sandberg, et al., 2012).
Ahlstrom et al. (2012) found that when only onepartner gamed (38% of the study’s couples), the satisfaction was lower than inmarriages where both spouses gamed equally or where one gamed more and theother less (62% of the study’s couples). The study reported thatfrequently arguing about gaming and less frequently going to bed at the sametime were correlated with lower levels of satisfaction. Since attachmentbehaviors are correlated with marital quality and satisfaction (Sandberg, etal., 2012), they are also likely to suffer. Over 50% of couples where only onepartner gamed reported arguing about gaming. In the sample, about 72% ofindependent gamers and their non-gaming partners reported that video gameplaying negatively affected their couple relationship.
The study demonstratesthat a couple’s perception of how video game playing affects their relationshipis somewhat dependent on whether the activity is played by both or only one. Although it is unclear whether gaming is an addiction,Ahlstrom, et al. (2012) found that the level of gaming compulsivity andfrequency of video game playing was not related to marital satisfaction forindependent gamers or their spouse, indicating that large amounts of time spentvideo game playing is not what causes distress in the relationship.For couples where both gamed, the level of gaming compulsion was related tolower levels of marital satisfaction for both partners. Perhaps this is becausewhen both play video games excessively, it leaves less time to do other things together.This study demonstrates that video game use effects on couple relationships,and their attachment behaviors, are at least partially dependent on whetherboth partners, or only one partner games.Coyne et al.
(2012) looked at video game playing andphysical and relational aggression in couple relationships where partners wereseriously dating, engaged, or married. The study found thatvideo game use was not directly related to aggression in the relationship. Thestudy found that the amount of time men spent playing video games was relatedto increased couple conflict over media use, and that conflict over media usewas related to increased aggression, both physical and relational, in thecouple relationship. This finding suggests that actual frequency of play is notas important as the couple’s perception of whether frequency of playing videogames is a problem. This same relationship was not significant for women,perhaps because women were found to play video games for lesser amounts of timethan men, making it less problematic to the relationship. Another explanationthat Coyne et al. (2012) also suggested is that men may view women’s video gameplaying more positively because it can become a joint recreational activity.
ConclusionIn summary, relationship quality and satisfaction, andattachment behaviors (Sandgerg, et al., 2012), are affected in different waysby video game use (Ahlstrom, et al., 2012; Coyne, et al., 2012).Some researchers suggest that video game use may lead to poorer qualityrelationships with friends and family (Padilla-Walker et al., 2010). In a studyof heterosexual couples, video game playing by either partner was not relatedto aggression in romantic relationships (Coyne et al.
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