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Objective: Compulsive internet use (CIU) has been linked to decrements in mental health and well‐being. However, relatively little is known about how CIU relates to evaluations of the self, and in particular, whether CIU is antecedent to or is a consequence of negative evaluations of one’s social worth (self‐esteem) and general efficacy (hope). To examine this, we explored the longitudinal relations between CIU and the development of self‐esteem and hope among adolescents over a four‐year period. Method: Two thousand eight hundred and nine adolescents completed measures yearly from Grade 8 (MAge = 13.7) to Grade 11. Autoregressive cross‐lagged structural equation models were used to test whether CIU influenced or was influenced by self‐esteem and hope. Results: We found consistent support for a CIU‐as‐antecedent model. CIU preceded reductions in trait hope, and small reductions in self‐esteem. In contrast, we did not find evidence for a CIU‐as‐consequence model: low self‐esteem and hope did not predict increases in CIU over time. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that CIU has negative consequences for young people’s feelings of goal‐efficacy, and that interventions that address the compulsive use of the internet are likely to strengthen hope and self‐esteem among young people.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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