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BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanisms of Internet gaming disorder (IGD) and the associated interaction effects of childhood trauma, depression and anxiety in college students. METHODS: Participants were enrolled full-time as freshmen at a University in the Hunan province, China. All participants reported their socio-demographic characteristics and undertook a standardized assessment on childhood trauma, anxiety, depression and IGD. The effect of childhood trauma on university students' internet gaming behaviour mediated by anxiety and depression was analysed using structural equation modelling (SEM) using R 3.6.1. RESULTS: In total, 922 freshmen participated in the study, with an approximately even male-to-female ratio. A mediation model with anxiety and depression as the mediators between childhood trauma and internet gaming behaviour allowing anxiety and depression to be correlated was tested using SEM. The SEM analysis revealed that a standardised total effect of childhood trauma on Internet gaming was 0.18, (Z = 5.60, 95% CI [0.02, 0.05], P < 0.001), with the direct effects of childhood trauma on Internet gaming being 0.11 (Z = 3.41, 95% CI [0.01, 0.03], P = 0.001), and the indirect effects being 0.02 (Z = 2.32, 95% CI [0.00, 0.01], P = 0.020) in the pathway of childhood trauma-depression-internet gaming; and 0.05 (Z = 3.67, 95% CI [0.00, 0.02], P < 0.001) in the pathway of childhood trauma-anxiety-Internet gaming. In addition, the two mediators anxiety and depression were significantly correlated (r = 0.50, Z = 13.54, 95% CI [3.50, 5.05], P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The study revealed that childhood trauma had a significant impact on adolescents' Internet gaming behaviours among college students. Anxiety and depression both significantly mediated the relationship between childhood trauma and internet gaming and augmented its negative influence. Discussion of the need to understand the subtypes of childhood traumatic experience in relationship to addictive behaviours is included.

Original publication




Journal article


J Behav Addict

Publication Date



Internet gaming disorder, anxiety symptoms, childhood trauma, college students, depressive symptoms