Attachment-Oriented Research In People With Internet Addiction

Purpose. What is the research question(s)? (What are they trying to discover?)

This is a study of attachment-oriented research in people with internet addiction. The question that this research brings is: whether attachment orientation is a risk factor for addictive behavior. To test this hypothesis, an empirical study was conducted aimed at analyzing the role of the caregiver’s emotional responsiveness in the development of addictive internet behavior.

What are the hypotheses? (What do they expect the outcomes to be?)

According to the hypothesis, the emotional misattunement and unresponsiveness of the caregiver, which leads to insecure attachment patterns, and even attachment trauma, predisposes the child in the future to the formation of addiction, since it leads to insufficient development of a number of mental functions and coping mechanisms, such as regulation and designation of affects, maintaining self-esteem, and the ability to take care of oneself, necessary for ensuring and maintaining a sense of psychological security.

The outcome that they expect to see is a significant prospective correlation between earlier attachment and later internet addiction.


What is the population that was studied in the research project? During the survey period, the Web-based questionnaire was conducted N=1009 times. “Around 39,74% of participants did not proceed past the start page, another 28.35% had dropped out by page 3”. After the survey period was completed a total sample of 245 participants, aged 16-61 years, was selected. It included 168 females and 77 males. At the time of the survey, 78.8% were in a partnership. Less than half of subjects were employed full-time or part-time, one-quarter of the sample consisted of students who were also working in addition to studying, a small fraction of the total sample were unemployed, few participants were self-employed.

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1) What is the sample size? 245

2) How representative was the sample of the population? The sample substantially under-represented people with low levels of education, therefore results may not be generalizable. Also, more females than males responded to the survey and participated in the research.

Measures. What measures/ methods were used to collect data?

1. A Web-based survey was carried out. The Web-based questionnaire was distributed both on Facebook and on 15 thematically different forums (ranging from parent-, travel-, computer- to craft- and comic platforms) to obtain the most heterogeneous sample possible. The survey period lasted for 6 weeks.

2. The Bielefelder partnership expectations questionnaire was used to assess the attachment style of participants. This inventory consisted of 31 items that were rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 0 (completely disagree) to 4 (completely agree).

3. The online addiction diagnostic tool was used to assess internet addiction or web overuse. It consisted of 14 items about Internet addiction that are rated on a 5-point Likert scale with a maximum possible total score of 27 points. Cutoff values differentiated three different user types: normal (7 points and 13 points).

4. Cyber Relationship Motive Scale (CRMS-D). The Cyber Relationship Motive Scale is a self-evaluation of user’s relationship motives for going online. Survey respondents are prompted to rate how well each of the 27 possible items applied to their motives for Internet usage on a 5-point scale ranging from 0 (strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree): anonymity, opportunity to meet new people, simple communication, curiosity, emotional support, social contact, escape from the real-world, finding love or a sexual partner.

5. The Rorschach Inkblot Test.

How valid and reliable were those measures/methods?

Methodological complications limited the validity of the research results. The lack of participants classified and diagnosed as “addicted” became a major problem of the research study. Therefore, conclusions can only be drawn for problematic, subclinical Internet use. The article mentioned that Web-based games, gambling, and sex services were not adequately represented in the sample. “This one-sided sample composition can be explained by solely recruiting participants on forums and social networks. Moreover, it would be important to find out to what extent abusive and pathological Internet use differs. A long-term monitoring of users with Internet addiction tendencies would be required to reveal whether attachment style can act as a disposition and consequently facilitate the development of an Internet addiction”

In all Web-based surveys, the sample composition presented with additional issue limiting the value of the found results. It is possible that Internet users, who were striving to relativize the negative image of Internet dependency, predominantly responded to the survey. A related concern is the limited chances to gain information in a self-assessment process typical for Web-based studies. Also every form of self-evaluation has an intentional or unintentional bias. This can include self-deception, simulation or dissimulation, or indeed socially desirable answers.

For the Rorschach test, the stimuli used are more ambiguous as opposed to structured tests. As the Rorschach Inkblot Method had provoked numerous discussions about its reliability, validity, and utility, it has received a maybe more intensive level of scrutiny than any other personality test.

What confounding variables may have contaminated or influenced the data collection? (e.g. different counselors’ styles affecting client outcomes; client recall of events not reliable, etc) Self-deception, simulation or dissimulation, socially desirable answers, weather, gender.


What variables were studied? (e.g. personality traits; self-concepts; training/clinical method; client satisfaction)

Emotion dysregulation, duration and frequency of internet use, attachment style.

What was the structure of the research design? (e.g. experimental, correlational, survey, etc) Survey research.

Finding What were the findings of the study? (e.g. increase in scores; higher ratings; positive/negative correlation; etc) Participants with insecure attachment style showed a higher tendency to pathological Internet usage compared with securely attached participants. An ambivalent attachment style was particularly associated with pathological Internet usage. Escapist and social-compensatory motives played an important role for insecurely attached subjects. However, there were no significant effects with respect to Web-based services and apps used. Results of the analysis of the Rorschach protocol with 16 subjects corroborated these results. Users with pathological Internet use frequently showed signs of infantile relationship structures in the context of social groups.

Do the findings support or refute the hypothesis? (relate back to question and outcome expectation) Findings support the hypothesis. Pathological Internet use was a function of insecure/ambivalent attachment style and limited interpersonal relationships.

How can the results be applied to psychological counseling? (how relevant, if at all, are the findings for professional counseling?)

Attachment styles may be resistant to change, as many studies indicate that at the age of six children have the exact same attachment style as at the age of 12 months. The attachment style, with its characteristic personality traits, becomes an integral part of our personality and it is difficult to modify it. However, emotion dysregulation has been found to be modifiable and may provide a potential target in the treatment of substance use disorders and some behavioral dependencies for those who manifest attachment insecurities.

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Attachment-Oriented Research In People With Internet Addiction. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

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