Hannah used in homes. Video games, which used

Hannah
Kent

Professor
Kiely

ENGL
1202-02

Effects of Videogames on
Relationships

Introduction

Over
the last few decades the use of technology has expanded tremendously,
especially technology that can be used in homes. Video games, which used to be
found only in arcades, have now moved to homes all over the world. This lead to
a fundamental shift in the video game industry (Zackariasson & Wilson,
2010). In 2009, 42% of households had a video game console and 68% of American
households reported playing video and computer games (Entertainment Software
Association, 2009). It may be most surprising that 75% of game players were
over 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 only
for children and adolescents, but adults too.

Video games are defined as electronic interactive
entertainment on a computer, game console, or handheld device.
Research has been done worldwide to assess the impacts video game playing has
on an individual’s close relationships and physical and mental health. In a
study assessing how such technology use affected married couples, when asked
about how they would feel if their partner played games on the internet, 35% of
the couples disagreed about whether gaming was an acceptable activity or not
(Helsper & Whitty, 2010), meaning that one third of couples have different
opinions about whether or not playing video games is acceptable. This
disagreement could cause relational distress. People who extensively play video
games may be at risk for seizures, obesity, and physical discomfort (Chuang,
2006). It is estimated that potentially 3.1% of adults in America may play
video games compulsively (Ferguson, Coulson, & Barnett, 2011). In one
study, the authors Han, Hwang, & Renshaw (2011) gave 2 individuals who
played video games impulsively Bupropion while using video games. Releasing this
chemical into the brain is a technique that has been used in treating substance
dependence. After 6 weeks of treatment, the participants craved video games
less and played them less (Han et al., 2011). The success of this study implies
that overuse of video games may be helped by chemicals that affect brain
chemistry. Video game use affects many aspects of an individual’s life and can
have both positive and negative effects on different types of relationships
worldwide.

Most research has been focused on the effect of video
game use on children and the wider impact of violent video game use (Anderson
et al., 2010). However, there is very little
research 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 overuse
of video games on attachment behaviors. Couple attachment is important for many
reasons. Also, secure attachment is related to higher mental health and relationship
quality (Butzer & Campbell, 2008; McWilliams & Bailey, 2010).

The purpose of this paper is to determine if video
game use is associated with attachment behaviors in relationships. This
paper will discuss how the frequency of video gaming, whether with a partner,
or independently, or different types of video games may affect couple relationships
differently. The paper will also discuss the video game use variables that may
result in problems in romantic relationships, and whether the perception of
video games in the relationship makes a difference in its impact on attachment
behaviors. The attachment behaviors to study include responsiveness,
accessibility, and engagement (Sandberg, Busby, Johnson, & Yoshida, 2012).

Attachment Theory

Attachment
theory is the theoretical framework for this paper, which was originally
developed by Bowlby.
He proposed that a child created an attachment with its caregiver (1969). Hazan
& Shaver (1987) extended this theory to continue into adulthood and
proposed that couples tend to be similarly attached. Secure attachment provides
social support and security from stress (Ainsworth, 1991; Bowlby, 1969). The
couples shape each other’s attachment through their behaviors and couple
processes (Johnson and Whiffen, 1999).

Quality
couple relationships have healthy attachment bonds between the partners. Studies have shown that partners who
are securely attached have higher marital satisfaction than couples who are
insecurely attached (Banse, 2004; Senchak & Leonard, 1992; Butzer &
Campbell, 2008). Insecure attachment styles, avoidant and anxious, are related
to mental illness such as anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and
substance related disorders (McWilliams & Bailey, 2010). Insecure
attachment 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 &
Bailey, 2010). In another study, women who were insecurely attached scored
themselves as less attractive and reported more infidelity (Bogaert &
Sadava, 2002). It is clear that secure attachment in couple relationships produces
favorable outcomes.

Secure
attachment is created when a partner is accessible and responsive to the needs
of their partner (Bowlby, 1973; Johnson, 2004). Johnson (2004) notes that a partner must
also be engaged emotionally with their partner to create this sense of
attachment. When partners are engaged emotionally, they create a feeling of intimacy
and connectedness that bonds them (Johnson, 2004). These attachment behaviors
(responsiveness, accessibility, and engagement) predict both relationship stability
and quality (Sandberg, et al., 2012). For this paper, responsiveness is defined
as a partner readily responding to the emotional bids and the initiations for
interaction by his or her partner. Responsiveness is important because a
consistent safe reaction will help the other partner build safety and trust
within their relationship. Accessibility is defined as a partner being
consistently available to give attention to their partner. This is important
because if the partner cannot be present physically or emotionally and cannot
give the desired attention, there are little to no opportunities for bonding.
Engagement is defined as the ability to feel close and connected with their
partner during interactions. Engagement is important because it is a bonding
event that provides comfort to build attachment and closeness. These
attachments behaviors are linked and occur together. A partner first must be
accessible to be able to respond, and how they respond influences how close the
partner feels during intimate moments if/when they occur. (Sandberg, et al.,
2012)

Attachment
and Leisure Activities

Research
suggests that shared couple leisure activities contribute to relationship
satisfaction (Crawford, Houts, Huston, & George, 2002; Johnson, Zabriskie,
& Hill, 2006). One
study found that when a couple was happy with the couple leisure activities
that they did together, they were more likely to be happy in their relationship
regardless of the amount of time they spent doing those activities (Johnson,
Zabriskie, & Hill, 2006). Another study examining individual and couple
leisure activity found that when a husband, alone or with his wife, pursued a
recreational activity the wife did not like, it led to the wife’s marital
dissatisfaction 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 activities
affect attachment behaviors like they impact relationship satisfaction. This paper
will discuss whether a shared leisure activity such as video game use or a
negative perception of video game use spills over to impact couple attachment
behaviors.

Video
gaming, especially done alone, may negatively spill-over into couple
relationships by interfering with couple attachment behaviors. If one partner is experiencing
frustration or anger during video game playing, this frustration may be carried
into the relationship by the partner being less accessible, responsive, or
engaged with his/her partner. If only one partner plays video games, the other
partner may feel isolated and alone because the partner who is playing does not
want to stop playing and is not accessible or responsive. Also, if an
individual plays a violent video game, will his/her aggressive play carry over
into aggressiveness in relationship behaviors? Or, if the spouses experience
cooperation, teamwork, and success when they play video games together, will
these positive emotions and perceptions carry over into their real-life
relationship as increased attachment behaviors? Couple attachment is important
because of its relationship to mental/physical health and marital quality
(McWilliams & Bailey, 2010; Sandberg, et al., 2012).

Video
Game Use Effects on Relationships

 A few studies have found extensive video game
use correlated with poorer relationship quality (Padilla-Walker, Carroll,
Nelson, & Jensen, 2010; Schmit, Chauchard, Chabrol, & Sejourne, 2011). One study looked at young adults and
found that video game use in young adults was correlated with poor relationship
quality with both parents and friends (Padilla-Walker et al., 6 2010). In
another study, which looked at individuals who displayed gaming dependent
attitudes and behaviors, (using abuse/dependence criteria from the DSM-IV-TR)
and those who did not, found that dependent gamers were found to play video
games more and to have lower quality relationships with family and friends (Schmit
et al., 2011).

Some individuals enjoy playing video games for the
social connection it may provide (Colwell & Kato, 2003).
In one study, some individuals reported that they had better quality
communication and were more satisfied with an online Second Life virtual
partner than they were with their real life romantic partner (Gilbert, Murphy,
& Avalos, 2011). This may indicate that as online relationships grow, the real-life
couple relationship weakens. In fact, Hawkins & Hertlein (2013) have
outlined a clinical treatment to help couples who report having issues related
to video game use.

 Research suggests that
extensive video game use is not problematic in a relationship where both individuals
play together sometimes or are both involved in frequent video game playing. One
study assessed problematic online behavior between marital partners and found
that 57% of the couples reported similar internet behaviors, and only 35% of
the couples disagreed about whether gaming was acceptable or unacceptable
(Helsper and Whitty, 2010). Another study found that when both partners gamed
about the same amount of time, they had higher marital satisfaction than
couples where only one partner gamed, or where one gamed more than the other
did (Ahlstrom, Lundberg, Zabriskie, Eggett, & Lindsay, 2012). This suggests
that playing a video game together may have positive effects on some
relationships and their attachment behaviors if they can bond each other over a
shared leisure activity. Some studies have found that when addictive behaviors,
such as doing drugs or drinking alcohol, are matched by the partner, the
behaviors are not viewed as problematic in the relationship (Homish &
Leonard, 2005). This indicates that when a partner games alone or when couples
disagree about gaming, the relationship satisfaction suffers and the related
attachment behaviors do as well (Sandberg, et al., 2012).

Ahlstrom et al. (2012) found that when only one
partner gamed (38% of the study’s couples), the satisfaction was lower than in
marriages where both spouses gamed equally or where one gamed more and the
other less (62% of the study’s couples). The study reported that
frequently arguing about gaming and less frequently going to bed at the same
time were correlated with lower levels of satisfaction. Since attachment
behaviors are correlated with marital quality and satisfaction (Sandberg, et
al., 2012), they are also likely to suffer. Over 50% of couples where only one
partner gamed reported arguing about gaming. In the sample, about 72% of
independent gamers and their non-gaming partners reported that video game
playing negatively affected their couple relationship. The study demonstrates
that a couple’s perception of how video game playing affects their relationship
is 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 and
frequency of video game playing was not related to marital satisfaction for
independent gamers or their spouse, indicating that large amounts of time spent
video game playing is not what causes distress in the relationship.
For couples where both gamed, the level of gaming compulsion was related to
lower levels of marital satisfaction for both partners. Perhaps this is because
when 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 whether
both partners, or only one partner games.

Coyne et al. (2012) looked at video game playing and
physical and relational aggression in couple relationships where partners were
seriously dating, engaged, or married. The study found that
video game use was not directly related to aggression in the relationship. The
study found that the amount of time men spent playing video games was related
to increased couple conflict over media use, and that conflict over media use
was related to increased aggression, both physical and relational, in the
couple relationship. This finding suggests that actual frequency of play is not
as important as the couple’s perception of whether frequency of playing video
games is a problem. This same relationship was not significant for women,
perhaps because women were found to play video games for lesser amounts of time
than men, making it less problematic to the relationship. Another explanation
that Coyne et al. (2012) also suggested is that men may view women’s video game
playing more positively because it can become a joint recreational activity.

Conclusion

In summary, relationship quality and satisfaction, and
attachment behaviors (Sandgerg, et al., 2012), are affected in different ways
by video game use (Ahlstrom, et al., 2012; Coyne, et al., 2012).
Some researchers suggest that video game use may lead to poorer quality
relationships with friends and family (Padilla-Walker et al., 2010). In a study
of heterosexual couples, video game playing by either partner was not related
to aggression in romantic relationships (Coyne et al., 2012). Research suggests
that video game use may be beneficial in couple relationships where both
partners game (separately and together) and agree that it has mostly a positive
effect on their relationship (Ahlstrom et al., 2012).

 

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