The risk effect of anxiety on addictive behaviors, including Internet addiction (IA), has repeatedly been highlighted in the international literature. However, there is a lack of longitudinal studies examining this association in relation to proximal context effects, particularly in adolescence. Such findings would shed light on potential age- and proximal context-related variations in the anxiety–IA association that could better inform IA prevention and intervention initiatives.
In this study, 648 adolescents, embedded in 34 classrooms, were assessed at the age of 16 and again at the age of 18 to examine the effect of anxiety on IA behaviors in relation to the average level of classroom extraversion. IA was assessed with the Internet Addiction Test (Young, 1998), anxiety with the relevant subscale of the Symptom Checklist 90 – Revised (Derogatis & Savitz, 1999) and classroom extraversion with the synonymous subscale of the Five Factor Questionnaire (Asendorpf & van Aken, 2003). A three-level hierarchical linear model was calculated.
The present findings demonstrated that: (a) higher levels of anxiety were significantly associated with higher IA behaviors, (b) the strength of this association did not vary over time (between 16 and 18 years old), and (c) however, it tended to weaken within classrooms higher in extraversion.
This study indicated that the contribution of individual IA risk factors might differently unfold within different contexts.