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Gamer Widow: A Phenomenological Study of Spouses of Online Video Game Addicts



Few studies have examined the impact of online video game addiction on addicts’ family members. The purpose of this study is to describe the lived experiences of the spouses of online video game addicts via qualitative, phenomenological methodology. Data were gathered via online, open-ended questions and suggested three categories that described participants’ experiences of being married to an online video game addict: Changes in My Husband, Changes in Me, and Changes in the Marital Relationship. Among these categories, seven themes and 12 subthemes emerged. The study concludes by discussing the essence of the phenomenon, as well as implications for therapy.
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Gamer Widow: A Phenomenological
Study of Spouses of Online Video Game
Jason C. Northrupa & Sterling Shumwayb
a St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas, USA
b Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA
Published online: 22 Apr 2014.
To cite this article: Jason C. Northrup & Sterling Shumway (2014) Gamer Widow: A Phenomenological
Study of Spouses of Online Video Game Addicts, The American Journal of Family Therapy, 42:4,
269-281, DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2013.847705
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The American Journal of Family Therapy, 42:269–281, 2014
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0192-6187 print / 1521-0383 online
DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2013.847705
Gamer Widow: A Phenomenological Study
of Spouses of Online Video Game Addicts
St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas, USA
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA
Few studies have examined the impact of online video game ad-
diction on addicts’ family members. The purpose of this study is to
describe the lived experiences of the spouses of online video game
addicts via qualitative, phenomenological methodology. Data were
gathered via online, open-ended questions and suggested three cat-
egories that described participants’ experiences of being married to
an online video game addict: Changes in My Husband, Changes
in Me, and Changes in the Marital Relationship. Among these cat-
egories, seven themes and 12 subthemes emerged. The study con-
cludes by discussing the essence of the phenomenon, as well as
implications for therapy.
Most video games are marketed to and designed for grown-ups (Entertain-
ment Software Association, 2005). A particularly popular type of video game
is the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). In these
games, players around the world use custom-built characters to fight virtual
battles together in real time to improve their characters’ standings.
Recent data suggest that there are well over 20 million MMORPG play-
ers today (Hill, 2011), and over one-third are married (Griffiths, Davies, &
Chappell, 2004; Yee, 2006). Griffiths et al. (2004) report that 79% of adults
indicate they need to “sacrifice” major aspects of their lives to maintain their
status in the game, and that the average amount of time adults spent playing
the game was 24.7 hours a week. Many players list “relationships” as an area
Address correspondence to Jason C. Northrup, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, Assistant Professor,
Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Department of Counseling and Human Services,
Saint Mary’s University, One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, TX 78228-8257. E-mail:
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270 J. C. Northrup and S. Shumway
Gaming addiction is a concept that the American Medical Association
(AMA) considered adding to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statis-
tical Manual of Mental Disorders (AMA, 2007). Online support groups for
players and loved ones have been established to help conquer this addiction
(e.g., On-Line Gamers Anonymous, n.d., EverQuest Widows, n.d.; Gamer
Widow, n.d.; WoW Widow, n.d.). Anecdotal accounts from self-described
“gamer widows” on these sites suggest that the effects of the addiction on
family and friends are significant. This is consistent with systems theory,
which suggests that the actions of one person invariably affect other mem-
bers of a system. However, most literature on gaming addiction focuses on
the addict, not on family members. The purpose of this study is to better un-
derstand video game addiction’s effects on marriage by describing common
phenomenological experiences of gamer widows.
MMORPGs and Addiction
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) states that 75% of heads of
households today play computer or video games and that the average video
game player is 30 years old (2005), which is consistent with demographic
MMORPG research (Griffiths et al., 2004; Yee, 2006b). Video game addiction
symptoms share similarities with pathological gambling, including preoccu-
pation, escapism, feelings of compulsion, and withdrawal symptoms. Based
on these similarities, researchers have recommended formalizing these cri-
teria to diagnose video game addiction (Griffiths, 1991; Salguero & Moran,
Symptoms of dependence appear to be more prevalent among
MMORPG-players than other types of video games. Ng and Wiemer-Hastings
(2005) found that 25% of MMORPG-players played 11–20 hours a week, 34%
played 21–40 hours a week, and 11% played 40+hours a week. In contrast,
2% of offline gamers played 11–20 hours a week, 4% played 21–40 hours, and
2% played 40+hours a week. Also, the majority of MMORPG-players tended
to play for 8 hours continuously, lost sleep because of playing, had been
told that they spent too much time playing, and enjoyed playing more than
activities with friends. Similarly, other studies report that many MMORPG
players sacrificed hobbies, sleep, work, education, or socialization, became
irritable when unable to play, continued playing even when frustrated or
unable to enjoy it, and considered themselves addicted (Griffiths et al., 2004;
Yee, 2006).
MMORPGs and Couples
Research examining the role of MMORPGs and couples is only now begin-
ning to emerge. Studies suggest that in marriages where one partner plays
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Gamer Widow 271
and the other does not, marital satisfaction levels are lower (Ahlstrom et al.,
2012; Hertlein & Hawkins, 2012). For men, more time spent playing video
games has been associated with increased physical and relational aggression
(Coyne et al., 2012). Even among adolescents, using the internet to partic-
ipate in online gaming was associated with decreased relationship quality
(Blais et al., 2008). It should be pointed out that the research thus far has
been correlational in nature, and does not necessarily indicate that video
games cause such problems. However, from a systemic perspective addic-
tive behaviors and relationship problems are cyclical in nature; one inevitably
affects the other (Steinglasset al., 1987). This does not mean that family mem-
bers of addicts are responsible for the addict’s behavior; it simply means that
when the addict experiences stress of any kind he or she will turn to the ad-
diction for relief, but the consequences of this behavior usually create more
The research suggests that for some individuals, video games can be
addictive. Though video games may be the method of choice for some
individuals to cope with preexisting emotional problems, video games in and
of themselves may have unique attributes that create addictive tendencies.
Few studies have explored exactly how marriages or families are affected.
The purpose of this study is to describe the lived experiences of the spouses
of online video game addicts. The phenomenological approach, a qualitative
research methodology designed to explore a phenomenon and its invariant
structure, was therefore well-suited for this study as it seeks to describe
the meaning of several individuals’ experiences of a common phenomenon
(Cresswell, 1998). More specifically, Moustakas’s (1994) transcendental phe-
nomenology was chosen for this study, as it emphasizes the value of lived
experiences, the suspension of the researcher’s presuppositions, the inten-
tionality of consciousness, and the refusal of the subject-object dichotomy.
Its central question is, “What is the meaning, structure, and essence of the
lived experience for this person or group of people?” (Patton, 2001, p. 104).
Ten participants were used in this study, which is the maximum number to
reach saturation recommended by Cresswell (1998) for a phenomenology.
Criterion sampling helped ensure that all participants shared the common
experience of being married to an online video game addict. Participants
were required to be currently legally married and believe their spouse has
an addiction to MMORPGs. Six respondents were unable to meet these re-
quirements and were excluded from analysis. Participants were solicited
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272 J. C. Northrup and S. Shumway
from online forums for “gamer widows,” where participants were invited to
complete an online open-ended survey.
Following informed consent, participants were required to give a
pseudonym and a secure email address, which were used solely for member
checking purposes. Participants who stated that they believed their spouse
had an addiction to MMORPGs completed a series of open-ended ques-
tions about their experiences as the spouse of an online gaming addict.
After completing these items, participants answered a group of quantitative
items intentionally designed to mirror the qualitative ones for triangulation
Credibility, Dependability, and Confirmability
Demonstrating credibility, dependability, and confirmability helps improve
the quality of qualitative studies. Credibility refers to the reliability of find-
ings (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). I used several techniques to achieve credibility,
including member checking, peer debriefing, and methodological triangu-
lation. I employed member checking by requesting feedback from each
participant via their email address. Six of the ten participants sent feedback,
with only minor modifications suggested (e.g., correcting some grammatical
errors). I used similar qualitative and quantitative items in the online survey
given to the participants to achieve methodological triangulation. Answers
to qualitative items corresponded well with quantitative items here.
Dependability refers to the quality of the process of documentation,
while confirmability refers to the quality of the outcome of the documenta-
tion (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). An inquiry audit is effective at achieving both
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985). I used an internal (my dissertation chair and co-
author) and an external auditor to randomly select participants and check
their documentation against my analysis. In addition, I kept a reflexive jour-
nal throughout the process.
Data Analysis
I used a slightly modified version Moustakas’s (1994) phenomenological anal-
ysis. Before I collected the data, I detailed my presuppositions. In my youth
and young adulthood, I have had friends and acquaintances that seemed to
lose themselves in MMORPGs to the point of refusing face to face contact
in favor of the game. They themselves used the word “addiction” to de-
scribe what they were experiencing and this has likely influenced my own
After bracketing these assumptions and collecting the data, I began by
listing and grouping each piece of data for individual participants. Next, I
eliminated redundant data. After this, I clustered the remaining data into
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Gamer Widow 273
themes. I then checked these themes against the participant’s data again to
make sure that the themes were actually expressed in the data. I then sepa-
rated the themes into textural and structural categories for each participant.
AfterthisIwrotetextural-structural descriptions for each individual partic-
ipant. Last, I wrote a composite textural-structural synthesis describing the
essence of the phenomenon.
Ten Caucasian females participated in the study. The average age was 35.5,
ranging from 24 to 50. The average age of participants’ spouses was 36.3,
ranging from 25 to 50. Participants estimated that their spouses played an
average of 40.8 hours a week, ranging from 30 to 60. Three categories
became apparent: Changes in My Husband, Changes in Me, and Changes in
the Marital Relationship. From these categories, 7 themes and 10 subthemes
Category: Changes in My Husband
“He does not socialize a lot outside his WoW circle” – JD
The theme Real World Isolation describes how each addict withdrew
from most relationships, except the players with whom they interacted with
in the game. Nine of the ten participants stated that their husbands either
stopped socializing altogether, or only did so when their spouses forced
them to, even neglecting family events. Dawn recounted how she, “wanted
to take our son to the beach this weekend and he is complaining that his
guild master is mad at him for not raiding at all this weekend, even though
he signed up for (at least) three raids (that I know about) during the week.”
However, several participants described how their husbands did build close
relationships with other online players. Kelly described how her husband
“sees his ‘EQ’ friends as people. They even call him on the phone...he talks
to them like buddies.”
“There can’t be communication with him while he is at the computer or anger
comes out.” – Ann
This theme describes how the gamer defends his habits from threats
such as distractions from the game or the accusation that his gaming was
problematic. Nine of the participants described their husband doing this in
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274 J. C. Northrup and S. Shumway
different ways. Many described their husbands as becoming reactive when
someone would try to get their attention while they were playing. Dawn
states that her husband “snap[s] at our son and constantly complains that
our THREE YEAR OLD can’t play by himself for very long. Duh!!” Others
described how their spouse becomes reactive when confronted about their
gaming when not playing. Sirena stated that her husband “just leaves if I
bring up the game. He works two hours from home, so he will stay up there
until he calms down or quits pouting.” Some described how their spouse
would simply dismiss the notion that their gaming was problematic. Jane
wrote how she “tried to explain how much this habit hurts our family, but
he just doesn’t get it.” By dismissing their spouses’ concerns in this way,
they invalidated them, discouraging them from confronting them again in
the future.
“I’m sure his health is suffering because of this game. He never exercises at
all.” – Dawn
The theme Personal Consequences demonstrates how the addict also
suffered for his gaming. Five participants reported observing that their hus-
bands appeared to suffer emotionally or physically because of the addiction.
Some characterized their husband as frequently being angry, even when not
gaming. “He throws things and calls us names and gets so easily irritated with
us,” wrote Jane, suggesting irritability. Others mentioned how their husband’s
physical health suffered because of the addiction. Arby stated, “[I knew
he was addicted] five years ago when he started sleeping two hours a day.”
Others describe how their husbands actually tried to quit or cut back due to
the negative consequences, yet they found they were unable to do so.
Category: Changes in Me
“I think I have built a wall between us so that even when we are talking, I
always have anger and resentment for the game in my mind.” – Dawn
This theme illustrates common emotions participants described as part
of their experience, all of which described a negative experience.
Subtheme: Anger and resentment. “I cannot even look at his computer
and see the characters logged on without feeling anger, rage and resentment.”
– unmerry widow
All ten participants described feeling angry and resentful. For example,
Sirena said, “I hold my anger in and the resentment just builds and builds
until I say something.” Anger and resentment was based in the perception
that the addict did not participate as a husband or father.
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Gamer Widow 275
Subtheme: Stress. “I’m instantly stressed when I get home and I see him
on the computer.” – JD
Nine participants described increased stress. Dawn wrote, “Overall I
would say [stress] is higher for several reasons. I am constantly in a state of
either sadness or anger.”
Subtheme: Frustration. “It is very frustrating being the partner of a
gamer, as the game takes up a lot of their time and attention.” – Kavik
Six participants mentioned feeling frustration. Jane stated, “It is very rare
for me to actually be able to get him away from the computer to talk. I end
up getting frustrated.” Frustration was often related to their spouse’s lack of
interaction or shirking responsibilities.
Category: Changes in the Marital Relationship
“The gaming means that I do the majority of the housework and look after
the baby.” - Kavik
All ten of the participants described inequitable roles and responsibili-
ties. The gamer widow compensated in various ways for their spouse’s virtual
absence. Jane wrote, for instance, “I have also had to step up and lead our
children because his leadership is so inconsistent.”
Subtheme: Chores. “I work full time then come home and work until I
go to bed. He rarely does anything around the house.” – Sirena
All participants reported making up for their husbands’ lack of chores at
home. They sacrificed housework to play their game more. Unmerry widow
wrote, “He no longer takes out the trash or mows the lawn or shovels the
snow. That is my job now...he just works then plays.”
Subtheme: Parenting. “Our children talk to him, not with him, and
they might get an answer.” – Ann
For those participants with children, parenting was a major role that the
gaming addicts neglected and the spouses had to make up for. The addicts
neglected children of all ages, from infants to teenagers. Kavik wrote, “He
would not get off even if I really needed help with the baby.” Participants dis-
cussed the effects that this neglect had on the children. Jane stated, “Our son
has had an emotional breakdown because he has been rejected by his dad.”
“I talk to people at work in more depth than I do with my own husband
anymore.” – Dawn
All participants described becoming more and more distant from their
husbands. They argued more and interacted less because of the addiction.
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276 J. C. Northrup and S. Shumway
Sirena summed up her perception, saying, “I feel as though my husband is
just a warm body sitting on the sofa.”
Subtheme: More conflict. “We argue a lot...most of the time.” – Jane
All ten participants reflected on how conflict had increased in the re-
lationship, at least initially. The addiction itself was often the subject of
arguments, but so were the effects of the addiction such as the inequitable
roles or the feelings of neglect. For instance, Jane said, “I end up getting
frustrated and start yelling at him to pay attention to us.”
Subtheme: No emotional intimacy. “We’re not intimate. I tend to
stonewall when I’m feeling rejected and he retreats further into his game
where he’s ‘happy.”’ – Kelly
All participants spoke of the loss of emotional intimacy in the relation-
ship because of the addiction. Often participants said that the addict spent
so much time playing that the couple could not nurture that intimacy. But
at times the participants admitted that they had also held back out of re-
sentment. “Oh, he shows affection now and then, but then it’s hard for
me to reciprocate, since I have a lot of resentment built up inside,” wrote
Subtheme: Rare physical intimacy. “He used to be a kissy huggy person.
He no longer touches me.” – Sassy
Nine participants attributed rare physical intimacy to the addiction. This
was partly because the time spent playing robbed the couple of opportunities
for physical intimacy, but the participant also withdrew out of resentment. “I
am angry and frustrated all the time and I feel like if I was intimate with him,
I would be validating or rewarding his horrendous behavior,” said Dawn.
Both partners played a role in the lack of physical intimacy.
Subtheme: No communication. “He talks to his computer more than
me.” – Sassy
Nine participants also reported a decrease in communication as a result
of the addiction. Part of this was blamed on the addict. Arby summed up
her experience stating, “There is no communication other than hello when
he gets home from work and bye when he leaves.”
However, some participants also indicated that they were at least par-
tially responsible for the lack of communication. Several gamer widows said
they gave up confronting their husbands about the behavior and began sim-
ply ignoring it. In most cases, the spouse simply realized that fighting was
ineffective. Kelly, for instance, wrote, “We don’t get anywhere, so now we
don’t discuss it. I don’t see a point.”
“I can’t even begin to count how much money we have spent on or because of
WoW. I can say this....we would be much better off financially if my husband
had never heard of WoW.” – Sirena
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Gamer Widow 277
The theme of Financial Losses describes how six couples’ finances were
affected by the addiction. Many experienced losses directly related to gaming,
such as subscription fees for each account or purchasing items in the game.
Indirect costs were often larger, like when an addict neglected the family
finances or skipped work to play. “Because his work ethic has changed, he
has not gotten profit sharing which has drastically changed our income,”
wrote Arby.
Composite Textural-Structural Analysis of Gamer Widowhood
Per phenomenological methodology, the following narrative describes the
essence of gamer widowhood by combining the textures and structures of
the phenomenon:
Being a gamer widow means considerable change. Your husband
changes. You change. Your marriage changes. Your husband’s addiction
affects nearly everything in your life.
Your husband’s behavior stops making sense. He isolates himself from
family and friends, trading these relationships for strangers he met online. He
defends his gaming, firmly convinced that it’s not a problem. Yet he neglects
his own well-being to facilitate his playing.
Of course, the effects of your husband’s addiction affect you too. You
feel resentment, stress, and loneliness. You ignore your husband, avoiding
conflicts you know won’t do any good.
The differences in you and your husband mean that the marital rela-
tionship looks different too. Suddenly the roles shift as you are the one taking
care of the house and the kids. You grow more distant from each other, partly
because his time is consumed by the game, but also because you cannot stand
what he is doing. You stop talking to each other, sharing your emotions, and
even having sex. In many ways, this is no longer a marriage.
This study supports the existing research on MMORPGs in terms of de-
mographics and the effects of gaming addiction on the addict. It also
adds to the literature by describing how marital relationships are af-
fected. Gamer widows suffer a great deal. The themes here often corre-
spond with the themes of spouses of alcoholics, including emotional dis-
tress, conflict, and neglect (Rychtarick & McGillicuddy, 2005; Thorne, 2005;
Zetterlindet al., 2001). Naturally these women feel anger and resentment
towards their spouse. They also struggle daily with more vulnerable emo-
tions like loneliness, rejection, and fear. Distance between the gamer widow
and the addict develops as the game is an escape from the fighting for
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278 J. C. Northrup and S. Shumway
the addict, and the gamer widow cannot confront the addict’s behavior
Implications for Therapy
Steinglass et al. (1987) and Hurcom, Copello, and Orford (2000) should
be considered as treatment models for gaming addiction given the similar
themes found here to those found among the spouses of alcoholics. Stein-
glass et al. (1987) suggest that professionals differentiate between families in
which the addiction has become an organizing principle and families with
an addicted member where the addiction is not an organizing factor. The
latter will be interested in long-term growth and be willing to make dramatic
changes despite the cost of short-term stability. In the former, the family’s
stage of development will inform the professional just how entrenched of
an organizing principle the addiction is. In early-phase families, where the
family is still trying to establish its identity, regulatory behaviors like routines,
rituals, and problem-solving are not as extensively invaded by the gaming
addiction as in a middle-phase family, in which the stability of these regu-
latory behaviors is protected more. The addiction might be a dysfunctional
solution to deeper problems, and will be harder to let go for middle-phase
After determining the family’s stage, the next step in therapy would
involve removal of the game for an extended period so that the gamer
can “detox.” After this, the family will likely enter what Steinglass et al.
(1987) refer to as “the emotional desert,” referring to how the sudden
loss of the organizing principle of gaming addiction can be extremely
uncomfortable for a family in which regulatory behaviors have revolved
around it. The therapist helps the family maintain sobriety by validating their
emotional pain, identifying maladaptive coping mechanisms, and introduc-
ing new coping mechanisms that emphasize long-term growth. After the
emotional desert, the family must reorganize their identity and regulatory
Hurcom et al. (2000) point out that the addiction creates a great deal
of stress for families of addicts and point out that while their behaviors
often support the addiction, they are coping as best as they can. The au-
thors state that coping can be either active or avoidant. Active coping is
when the addiction is confronted head on, such as when a spouse gives
an ultimatum or suggests professional treatment for the addiction. Avoidant
coping refrains from confrontation for the sake of stability, such as when
the spouse ignores the gaming. Hurcom et al. (2000) state that coping oc-
curs on three domains: Appraisal-focused, in which the meaning of the
addiction is reframed; Problem-focused, in which action is taken to stop
the addiction; and Emotion-focused, in which the spouse attempts to man-
age her emotions relevant to the current situation. Therapists must be able
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Gamer Widow 279
to suggest coping styles that emphasize long-term growth over short-term
Limitations include that the sample was one of convenience. Also, the gen-
eralizability of this research is limited for a couple of different reasons. One
is the small sample size. Though small sample sizes are common in qualita-
tive research, larger, quantitative studies could improve the validity of these
findings. In addition, the entire sample was made up of Caucasian females.
Finally, the fact that the data was collected online provided some benefits,
but also created limitations. I was not able to ask immediate follow-up ques-
tions to participants’ responses (though I did follow up via email), and not
every participant took part in member checking.
Suggestions for Future Research
Because this is one of the first studies to examine the experiences of gamer
widows, more research is needed to confirm these results and explore related
areas of interest. It is vital that more research on gaming addiction examine
the prevalence of co-occurring disorders. More research is also needed to
examine the state of the marriage prior to the addiction. It would be impor-
tant to know whether or not married gamer addicts began playing more as a
way to escape emotional problems or a troubled relationship. Finally, future
studies should examine treatment efficacy for gamers and their families who
seek treatment for the addiction.
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... Studies of adults who meet the criteria for gaming disorder have found that the negative impacts of problem gaming can extend to other family members (Lianekhammy & van de Venne, 2015;Northrup & Shumway, 2014). Problem gaming has been associated with lower marital satisfaction (Ahlstrom, Lundberg, Zabriskie, Eggett, & Lindsay, 2012) and less fulfilling interpersonal relationships (Lo, Wang, & Fang, 2005). ...
... Coyne et al. (2012) examined problem gaming and conflict and aggression between couples and reported that greater time spent gaming was associated with more conflicts which, in turn, was associated with increased aggression. A qualitative study of spouses of individuals who play games excessively referred to experiences of anger, resentment, stress and frustration in relation to a partner's gaming, particularly in regard to unequal division of tasks such as care for children and household chores (Northrup & Shumway, 2014). Other issues arising included reduced communication and loss of emotional and physical intimacy (Northrup & Shumway, 2014). ...
... A qualitative study of spouses of individuals who play games excessively referred to experiences of anger, resentment, stress and frustration in relation to a partner's gaming, particularly in regard to unequal division of tasks such as care for children and household chores (Northrup & Shumway, 2014). Other issues arising included reduced communication and loss of emotional and physical intimacy (Northrup & Shumway, 2014). ...
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Background and aims Limited research has investigated how individuals' problem gaming affects significant others. The present study investigated the extent to which partners and parents were personally affected by their partner or child's problematic gaming behavior and what steps, if any, were taken in relation to treatment and other help-seeking by the gamers and the respondents themselves. Methods Two targeted samples (parents, n = 104; partners, n = 264) in Australia were recruited and administered an online survey. The survey assessed gaming-related harm across multiple domains, including financial, relationship, emotional wellbeing, physical health and work/study. Treatment and help-seeking questions referred to seeking psychological assistance, self-help, and community support. Non-parametric tests compared groups on harm measures based on GD status. Results Parents and partners of individuals rated in the ‘problem gaming’ range reported significantly greater harms compared to those in the at-risk and non-problem categories. The most frequently endorsed harms were in the relationship domain, including neglected household responsibilities, withdrawal from social events, and relationship conflict. Some parents consult with friends and family (15%) to resolve their child's gaming-related problems. Partners reported to seek outside support and assistance for themselves, including 30% who sought a psychologist. No partners reported having consulted a psychologist for their gaming partner. Discussion Problem gaming affects significant others across multiple life areas, but few seek outside help or support, suggesting there may be significant unmet needs. Conclusions Further research should examine factors that influence acceptance and engagement with problem gaming help options. Harm indicators may be useful for evaluating targeted interventions and other measures to reduce problem gaming.
... Legends, allow gamers from diverse racial backgrounds, age groups, and geographical locations to connect with one another through custom-built characters to fight virtual battles in real time as a means to improving their characters' standings (Bass, 2015;Northrup & Shumway, 2014). Each game functions as a self-contained society, with its own unique currency, scenery, and rules. ...
... Among the 13 articles were five correlational studies (Hussain et al., 2012;Lee & Kim, 2017;Li & Wang, 2013;Spekman et al., 2013;Volmer et al., 2014;), five literature reviews (Bass, 2015;Freeman, 2008;Dong & Potenza, 2014;Kuss, 2013;Young, 2009), one systematic review (29 quantitative studies and seven treatment studies) (King & Delfabbro, 2014), one meta-analysis (on 10 high-quality articles) (Meng et al., 2014), and one qualitative study (Northrup & Shumway, 2014). A summary of the 13 included articles is provided in Table 1. ...
... According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of gamers is 30 years, debunking the myth that only adolescents are interested in gaming. In fact, 68% of the gaming population are older than 18 years old (Northrup & Shumway, 2014;Vollmer et al., 2014). Hussain et al. (2012) reported that adolescents had a tendency to play more frequently in a week (i.e., inverse relationship between age and frequency of gaming), whereas adults were more likely to play for longer in a single gaming session. ...
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Internet gaming is a legitimate leisure activity worldwide; however, there are emerging concerns that vast numbers of gamers are becoming addicted. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) as a condition warranting more clinical research ahead of formalizing it as a mental disorder. Proposed as a behavioral addiction, IGD shares many similarities in both physical and psychosocial manifestations with substance use disorder, including cerebral changes on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Among the gaming population, compared to females, adolescent and adult males demonstrate far more addictive internet gaming use in terms of screen hours, craving, and negative impacts on health, which have, in isolated incidents, also caused death. The current article draws findings from a scoping review of literature related to IGD as a means to raising awareness about an emergent men’s health issue. Included are three themes: (a) unveiling the nature, impacts and symptoms of IGD; (b) conceptualizing IGD through neuroscience; and (c) treatment approaches to IGD. Afforded by these themes is an overview and synthesis of the existing literature regarding IGD as a means of providing direction for much needed research on gaming addiction and orientating primary care providers (PCPs) to the specificities of IGD in men’s health. The findings are applied to a discussion of the connections between IGD and masculinity and the importance of recognizing how behaviors such as social isolation and game immersion can be maladaptive coping strategies for males.
... Media can enhance romantic relationships when specifically used in connective ways (Schade et al., 2013), however, not all media use is beneficial. Problematic media use (PMU) can occur in romantic relationships when it infringes upon the autonomy of an individual or negatively influences others, such as media addiction, technoference, and (within certain contexts) pornography use (Brown et al., 2017;McDaniel & Coyne, 2016b;Northrup & Shumway, 2014). Such behaviors might impact the way that couples connect or diminish their feelings of safety and attachment (King et al., 2013;McDaniel et al., 2018). ...
... Overall these findings suggest that over time wife disordered internet gaming may negatively influence spouse engagement, accessibility, and responsiveness. In order to avoid the relationship death that occurs when a spouse becomes a "gaming widow(er)" (Northrup & Shumway, 2014), individuals ought to be aware of the ways in which their gaming might displace other relationship processes. ...
The purpose of this study was to examine how problematic media use (technoference, internet gaming disorder symptoms, and pornography use) predicted later partner relationship outcomes, operating through the mediator of partner responsiveness. Participants ( N = 1039) were from Waves II–IV of a nationally representative quantitative study on marriage relationships across the United States. Both spouses completed surveys reporting problematic media use, partner responsiveness, and relationship outcomes at three separate time points each spaced a year apart. In order to test the hypotheses, three longitudinal actor-partner interdependence models with indirect paths were estimated, with each model corresponding to one type of problematic media use. Results indicated that at the cross-sectional level, all three types of problematic media use had significant indirect actor and partner effects, where problematic media use predicted lower relationship outcomes through the intervening variable of partner non-responsiveness. Longitudinally, wife technoference directly negatively predicted later partner responsiveness, but there were no full indirect paths of Wave II problematic media to Wave IV relationship outcomes through the intervening variable of Wave III partner responsiveness. Implications of these findings and future directions are discussed.
... Research has suggested gaming can have negative impacts on relationship quality (Kowert et al., 2014;Northup & Shumway, 2014;Padilla-Walker et al., 2010). These studies noted negative effects of gaming on real-world social relationships and highlighted potential concerns around both relationship development and maintenance. ...
Objectives: A body of research is clarifying the complexity of the effects of online gaming on the lives of gamers. We explored self-reported negative emotional states, satisfaction with life, and relationship satisfaction in a sample of young adults. Methods: We recruited 165 student participants (70.9% female; Mage = 24.24, SD = 6.15) who completed an online survey. Two-way ANCOVAs were used to assess the relationships between online gaming, gender and the measures of negative emotional states, satisfaction with life, and relationship satisfaction. Results: No effects of gaming on relationship satisfaction were evident. However, gaming was positively related to satisfaction with life. In contrast, when negative emotional states were examined, female gamers had higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress than both non-gamers and male gamers. Conclusion and Implications: This highlights the complexities of the effects of gaming and that gaming itself should not be pathologized. The interactions evident in female gamers require further investigation, with the results supporting the notion that in some cohorts pre-existing characteristics of gamers might be a factor, as could how female gamers engage with online gaming environments. Further, the distinction between cognitive judgmental measures of satisfaction with life and negative emotional states was reiterated.
... That is, individuals who are more selfless within their relationship tend to place a higher value on their mate. There is evidence that married persons who are addicted to video games ignore their spouses, fail to do household chores, and become irritable (Northrup & Shumway, 2014). Narcissists tend to be selfish and less committed to their relationships (Campbell & Foster, 2002); then, when the relationship sours, they tend to blame their partners (Campbell, Reeder, Sedikides, & Elliot, 2000). ...
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We administered a revised version of the Mate Value Scale that focuses on individuals’ perception of their romantic partner's mate value. Students ( N = 330) from four universities completed surveys. The measure demonstrated good internal consistency reliability. Multiple regression analyses indicate that those who perceive their mates as possessing a higher value tended to compromise more when faced with conflict with their partners, had less anxiety in close relationships, and had more passionate love attitudes. We argue that this pattern of associations provides additional validity data in support of the Mate Value Scale.
... There are several studies suggesting that mentally unhealthy persons are so preoccupied with their own problems that they have difficulty maintaining satisfactory relationships with romantic partners (Braithwaite, Delevi, & Fincham, 2010). For example, there is evidence that married persons who are addicted to video games ignore their spouses, fail to do household chores, and become withdrawn and irritable (Northrup & Shumway, 2014). In a study of Dutch couples, higher neuroticism and lower self-esteem in both partners were associated with lower quality relationships (Luteijn, 1994). ...
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Previous research indicates that persons who self-report a high level of preoccupation with celebrities tend to have lower levels of well-being. We administered the “Romantic Partner Conflict Scale”, the “Love Attitudes Scale”, the soulmate subscale from the “Relationship Theories Questionnaire”, and the anxiety subscale from the “Experiences in Close Relationships Scale” to 330 students from four universities to see how well scores on these measures would predict scores on each of the three subscales from the “Celebrity Attitude Scale” (CAS). We predicted that persons whose scores on these measures of intimate relationships indicated a troubled, anxious, or poor quality relationship would have higher scores on the CAS, especially on its two problematic subscales. In three multiple regressions, specific measures of behavior during conflict with a romantic partner and certain love styles significantly predicted scores on all three of the CAS subscales. We discuss the implications of being a celebrity worshiper on one’s relationship with an intimate partner.
This mixed methods study sought to explore the lived experience of stress for parents of young dependent children during COVID‐19 lockdowns in Australia. Public health restrictions implemented during the COVID‐19 pandemic disproportionately burdened parents as they balanced novel and competing role demands. Despite growing research on impacts to parent mental health, much less is known about parenting at the experiential level during this period. Data were derived from free‐text survey responses collected during 2020 in an Australian population cohort study and analyzed in a mixed methods approach focusing on descriptive phenomenology. Twenty‐eight parent accounts of either ‘extreme’ or ‘minimal’ stress experiences were subject to phenomenological analysis of the individual, interpersonal, and contextual factors associated with each stress category. Three themes defined ‘extreme’ stress experiences: inadequacy of resources to cope, perceived lack of control, and compounding stressors. Two themes characterized ‘minimal’ stress experiences: feeling well resourced to cope and the absence of significant disruption to everyday life. Findings highlight three targets in particular: compounding stressors, family relationships, and gendered differences in parental stress. Intervention efforts should focus on better resourcing parents experiencing accumulating stressors through provision of individual and relational support and by addressing the higher burden experienced by mothers compared with fathers across pandemic related lockdowns.
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The complex context of contemporary society with the dynamic element of digital technologies, challenges Christian marriages in several ways. This article aimed to identify theological resources that can help Christian marriages flourish in the given context. The objective of this study was to identify theological resources, that can be used to encourage Christian marriages to flourish amid the challenges brought by the context of the digital age. This article followed the method of a literature study. The discussion started with an overview of the context of the digital age, and the relevant challenges that it poses to Christian marriages. This was followed by a pastoral perspective that was presented on the concept of spirituality. The article concluded by exploring the construct of resilience, through the lens of spirituality as it relates to Christian marriages. It was discovered that relational resilience is needed for Christian marriages, to meet the challenges of this context. Oneness was identified as a crucial element in the resilience of Christian marriages, when it is viewed through the lens of spirituality. The prominent connection between resilience and spirituality, stimulated reflection on a relational view on the Trinity as well as a marital spirituality, which informed the understanding of oneness, that can exist in Christian marriage relationships. Two overarching theological resources were identified, that can be applied in pastoral care to encourage the resilience of Christian marriages in a digital age. The first resource relates to the oneness of the Trinity, which spouses can imitate in their marriage relationship in order to increase intimacy. Secondly, marital spirituality was explained as a shared path of faith to which spouses commit, in order to intentionally practise an awareness for God’s presence, to honour closeness to the church and to be devoted to one another in daily life. Contribution: The challenges that Christian marriages face in a digital age, are placed in the context of spirituality and trinitarian theology, making an innovative theological contribution, by identifying theological resources that can enable Christian marriages to flourish.
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The purpose of this grounded theory study was to describe the experience of people who struggled with self-described addiction to World of Warcraft™ (WoW). WoW is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), and many players have shared their stories of compulsive use and recovery efforts on two different websites:, and a Reddit forum called /r/noWoW. We analyzed 140 unique posts on these sites to develop a process model describing how posters experienced addiction and recovery from WoW. We used grounded theory methods to create a model with categories including, time sink, impairment in work and relationships, and realization of loss. The process of recovery from compulsive WoW use included a series of realizations and the gamer “coming to themselves.” Implications for clinicians and researchers who study internet gaming disorder and related issues are offered.
Whatever form a family takes, the core and essential element is that it is a system made up of a group of people who interact with one another and therefore influence others in the system. Bowen's family systems theory is a framework used to understand healthy and unhealthy family relationships as they contribute to identity development. Family systems theory is most often used in clinical/therapeutic settings with families, to understand developmental processes of individuals and family groups, and to inform the creation of prevention and intervention strategies. This entry first defines this notion of family systems theory, then specifies the contexts of its application, and concludes with an exploration of how this theoretical frame is used specifically in the field of media research.
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Although the challenges around participation in online gaming grow, gamers and their partners who experience online relationship issues related to gaming, present a new set of treatment challenges for therapists. In this article, we report on the findings of a hermeneutic research study aimed at evaluating the scholarly literature related to online gaming and interpret these texts to determine the effect such online activity has on the couple relationship. We reviewed 18 articles published between 1998 and 2010 related to online gaming and interpersonal relationships, focusing solely on empirical articles related to the search criteria. Our interpretation of the text concluded that online gaming might add to and/or interfere with a couple's life. Based on these potential problem areas, practical considerations for treatment are also outlined. © 2012: Katherine M. Hertlein, Blendine P. Hawkins, and Nova Southeastern University.
Aims Some researchers suggest that for some people, video game playing is an addictive behaviour similar to substance dependence. Our aim,was to design and validate a scale to measure the problems associated with the apparently addictive use of all types of video games and video game systems, because there is no instrument at the present time that can be used for this purpose. Design We reviewed the DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence and for pathological gambling, as well as the literature on the addictions in order to design a short scale (PVP; problem video game playing) that is quick and easy to apply. Participants The scale was administered to 223 Spanish adolescents aged between 13 and 18 years. The study was carried out in Granada and Algeciras, Spain. Findings Psychometric analyses show that the PVP seems to be unidimensional and has acceptable internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) at 0.69. The pattern of associations between the scale scores and alternative measures of problem play supports its construct validity (higher total scores in the scale were associated with higher frequency of play, mean and longest times per session, self and parents' perception of playing to excess, and scores in the Severity of Dependence Scale). Conclusions Our results confirm that the excessive use of video games is associated with a number of problems which resemble a dependence syndrome, and the PVP appears as a useful instrument for the measurement of such problems.
The current study assessed how playing video games can influence conflict and aggression in relationships. A sample of 1,333 heterosexual couples reported their video game playing habits, conflict regarding the media, and physical and relational aggression (both self and partner directed). Results showed that for men (but not women), time spent playing video games was associated with increased conflict over the amount of time spent using media, as well as the content of those media. Conflict over the media, in turn, was associated with increased physical and relational aggression in the relationship. Thus, conflict over the media offers one explanation for why video game play may increase aggression in romantic relationships.
A variety of online support groups exist for "gaming widows" who feel their spousal relationship has been displaced by time spent playing Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game(s) (MMORPGs). MMORPG research has been presented on youth and adults, however to date, there is no research on married gamers to support or refute the claims of discontented spouses. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the gaining behaviors of couples who play MMORPGs. The sample included 349 couples. Results indicated lower marital satisfaction related to couples' MMORPG gaming interactions such as quarrelling about gaming, not retiring to bed at the same time, and addictive gaining behavior. Positive effects of gaming together were also identified.
phenomenological philosophy / psychological research on consciousness / descriptive and qualitative research / doing psychological research from a phenomenological perspective data gathering / data from self-reflection / data gathered from participants / selection of subjects / interview / data from previously developed descriptions / results of data collection data analysis / essential structures as findings / a search for lived-structures of essences / steps in the analysis / transformation and synthesis of the data expressions of the findings / the research report / issues of validity / usefulness of phenomenological research (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Objectives A randomized trial to compare two levels of an intervention (full versus brief) for use by primary health-care professionals with family members affected by the problematic drug or alcohol use of a close relative. Design A prospective cluster randomized comparative trial of the two interventions. Setting A total of 136 primary care practices in two study areas within the West Midlands and the South West regions of England. Participants A total of 143 family members affected by the alcohol or drug problem of a relative were recruited into the study by primary health-care professionals. All recruited family members were seen on at least one occasion by the professional delivering the intervention and 129 (90 %) were followed-up at 12 weeks. Main outcome measures Two validated and standardized self-completion questionnaires measuring physical and psychological symptoms of stress (Symptom Rating Test) and behavioural coping (Coping Questionnaire) experienced by the family members. It was predicted that the full intervention would show increased reduction in both symptoms and coping when compared to the brief intervention. Results The primary analysis adjusted for clustering, baseline symptoms and stratifying variables (location and professional group) showed that there were no significant differences between the two trial arms. The symptom score at follow-up was 0.23 [95% confidence interval (CI):-3.65, +4.06] higher in the full intervention arm than in the brief intervention arm, and the coping score at follow-up was 0.12 (95% CI:-5.12, +5.36) higher in the full intervention arm than in the brief intervention arm. Conclusions A well-constructed self-help manual delivered by a primary care professional may be as effective for family members as several face-to-face sessions with the professional.