Research: Boys with Autism Susceptible to ‘Problem Gaming’

A new research paper published in the Pediatrics 2013 medical journal concludes that young boys with autism spectrum disorder spend much more time playing video games than boys with average development. Researchers also conclude that boys with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD are at greater risk for "problematic video game use."

Boys, ages 8 – 18 with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD spent almost twice as much time playing games daily (2.1 and 1.7 hours daily, respectively) versus 1.2 hours for their counterparts with typical development, according to researchers Micah Mazurek, PhD, of the University of Missouri, and Christopher Engelhardt, PhD, of the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, both in Columbia.

"These results shed light into potential associated features of problematic game use and are consistent with previous studies linking impulsivity and inattention with problematic video game use," the authors stated, adding that impulse control and response inhibition problems are common to those with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.

Researchers compared the daily video gaming habits of boys with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD versus those with typical development and looked at symptoms and game features correlated with problematic game use in a population of 56 boys with autism spectrum disorder, 44 boys with ADHD, and 41 boys with typical development.

Research participants had a mean age of 11.7 and had approximately two siblings on average. Most were white, had parents who were married, and had an annual household income of $41,000 or greater. Boys with autism spectrum disorder included 46.4 percent with autistic disorder, 25 percent with Asperger's disorder, and 28.6 percent with a pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

The data was collected by parents at home using a 19-item, 4-point questionnaire. It cataloged inattention and hyperactivity symptoms using the Vanderbilt Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Parent Rating Scale and autism spectrum disorder symptoms were measured through the Social Communication Questionnaire (Current).

Ultimately researchers concluded from the data collected and cataloged by parents that children with autism spectrum disorder spent significantly more time on average playing video games than did those with typical development. Those with ADHD spent more time playing than the control group, but that time did not reach significance.

Those with either disorder were significantly more likely than children with typical development to have a video game system installed in their room. A separate analysis showed that boys with ADHD and autism who played role-playing games had higher problematic game use scores than those who did not.

Researchers say that "longitudinal studies are needed to extend this research and to examine the long-term effects of screen-based media use in children with [autism spectrum disorder]."

Source: Pediatrics

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