Self-determination theory, internet gaming disorder, and the mediating role of self-control

Devin J. Mills, Johnie J. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) suggests a sustained, problematic pattern of video gaming contributing to both physical and psychological harms. Applications of self-determination theory have revealed two correlates of IGD: (1) daily frustration of basic needs (i.e., competence, autonomy, and relatedness), and (2) stronger extrinsic gaming motivations. Theory and recent research suggests that poorer self-control (i.e., deficits in the ability to regulate emotions, behaviors, and impulses) may be one mechanism by which daily need frustration is associated with IGD and less adaptive gaming motivations. Thus, the present study explores whether self-control explains the relation between daily need frustration and IGD. A total of 487 university students (50.3% female; Mage = 19.50 years, SD = 1.90) completed the IGD Scale, the Basic Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale, the Self-Control Scale, and the Gaming Motivations Scale. Correlations showed that poorer self-control was associated with higher IGD and less adaptive video gaming motivations. Structural equation modeling further revealed that poorer self-control partially explained the relation between daily need frustration and IGD suggesting that daily need frustration undermines individuals’ self-control, which in turn contributes to greater IGD. Collectively, these findings inform theory on the development of IGD from the perspective of self-determination theory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106209
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Basic psychological needs
  • Gaming
  • Gaming disorder
  • Gaming motivation
  • Internet
  • Self-control
  • Self-determination theory


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