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Title: Adolescent vulnerability to risk online: the role of attachment and peer relationships
Author: Reynolds, Helen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2749 9294
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University of London
Date of Award: 2012
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At a crucial stage in their biological, cognitive, social and emotional development, the internet provides adolescents with multiple opportunities for information seeking and connecting with others online. Public concern surrounding internet use highlights potential risks of contact with strangers and exposure to harmful content. With adolescent internet use increasing rapidly, concern for this age group is high. Limited research has attempted to identify risk factors for online vulnerability. The current study aims to redress this, suggesting that insecure attachment to parents may play a key role in risk experiences online, possibly mediated by offline peer relationships. In a cross-sectional, quantitative design, a sample of 915 adolescents aged 11-15 years recruited from two comprehensive secondary schools (mean age 12.6 years, 53% male, 47% female) completed four questionnaires assessing internet use, risk experience online, relationship with parents, and relationship with offline peers. Logistic regression and mediation analysis were used to explore research questions addressing risk contact and content online. 84% of adolescents reported using the internet every day or almost every day. Risk contact: Attachment-avoidance was associated with increased likelihood of contact with unknown individuals online. Attachment-anxiety was associated with increased likelihood of meeting an online contact offline, partially mediated by peer discord. Risk content: Both attachment-anxiety and attachment-avoidance were associated with high-level exposure to risk-content online, partially mediated by peer discord. Attachment-anxiety was associated with increased likelihood of being bothered by risk content online. 3 Results are discussed in relation to the use of the internet for social compensation, the impact of psychological difficulties and contact with strangers, and the role of parental mediation on on line activities, all of which require further investigation. Limitations of the study are addressed,and implications are discussed for school, home, clinical and online contexts and for children in care.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available