Testing the spectrum hypothesis of problematic online behaviors: A network analysis approach

Stéphanie Baggio, Vladan Starcevic, Joël Billieux, Daniel L. King, Sally M. Gainsbury, Guy D. Eslick, David Berle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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The validity of the constructs of problematic Internet or smartphone use and Internet or smartphone addiction has been extensively debated. The spectrum hypothesis posits that problematic online behaviors (POBs) may be conceptualized within a spectrum of related yet distinct entities. To date, the hypothesis has received preliminary support, and further robust empirical studies are still needed. The present study tested the spectrum hypothesis of POBs in an Australian community sample (n = 1,617) using a network analysis approach. Psychometrically validated self-report instruments were used to assess six types of POBs: problematic online gaming, cyberchondria, problematic cybersex, problematic online shopping, problematic use of social networking sites, and problematic online gambling. A tetrachoric correlation matrix was computed to explore relationships between online activities and a network analysis was used to analyze relationships between POBs. Correlations between online activities were positive and significant, but of small magnitude (0.051 ≤ r ≤ 0.236). The community detection analysis identified six distinct communities, corresponding to each POB, with strong relationships between items within each POB and weaker relationships between POBs. These findings provide further empirical support for the spectrum hypothesis, suggesting that POBs occur as distinct entities and with little overlap.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107451
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Behavioral addictions
  • Network analysis
  • Problematic online behaviors


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