The association between adult attachment and problematic Internet use: A three-level meta-analysis

Xiang Niu, Yu Xin Xie, Li Xing Gou, Daniel L. King, Jing Jing Gu, Jin Liang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and aims: Problematic Internet use (PIU; generalized PIU and specific PIU) is an emerging public health issue associated with various negative mental health indicators. Adult attachment, which refers to individuals' views of the self and others in intimate relationships, has been found to be an important factor related to PIU in both theoretical and empirical studies. Although a few systematic reviews and meta-analyses have reported an association between attachment and specific PIU (i.e., problematic social networking sites, and problematic smartphone use), there are some limitations. Based on the PRISMA method, the current study examined the associations between adult attachment and general PIU and specific PIU using a three-level meta-analysis approach. 

Methods: In total, the present study identified 82 studies, with 66456 adults and 289 effect sizes after a systematic literature search for articles published before January 2023. 

Results: The analysis revealed that insecure attachment was positively correlated with PIU, while secure attachment was negatively correlated with PIU. Moreover, moderator analyses showed that the association between adult attachment and PIU was moderated by attachment style, measurement of attachment, and measurement of PIU. 

Discussion and conclusions: It is clear that insecure attachment is an important risk factor for PIU. Therefore, it is imperative to prevent and intervene in young adults’ experiences of attachment insecurity as well as especially provide extra support for those young adults who have experienced such attachment anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107957
Number of pages15
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date15 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Adult attachment
  • Compensatory internet use model
  • Moderator variables
  • Problematic internet use
  • Three-level meta-analysis


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