The Influence of Playing Video Games on Social Development of Adolescents

Project Lead Category Project status
Geert Verheijen Gaming Completed

This project investigates the influences of different aspects of video game play behavior on the adjustment and social relationships of adolescents. In an annual survey, adolescents indicate their well-being and various elements of their video game play behavior (such as their motivation for gaming, type of games played, and the social context in which games are played). The aim of the project is to investigate how average, day-today gaming affects the social development of teens.

Project team


The majority of youth nowadays play video games. A survey from the United States found that  97% of teens aged 12-17 engage in video game play behavior [1] and almost 40% of Dutch youth indicate to play video games for at least 3 hours on an average weekday [2]. Since this leisure activity has become ubiquitous in today’s society, it is imperative that we understand the effects it may have on youth. Unfortunately, research on this pastime has been very one-sided, focusing on possible negative consequences of video game play behavior. The field has mostly been exploring traditional media issues, such as the relation between gaming and aggression [3] or addictive, pathological gaming behavior [4]. Significantly less attention has been given to possible beneficial effects that playing video games may have on youth. Furthermore, most research on this topic suffers from a lack of scope, using only self-report measurements and exclusively investigating solitary play. The literature is wanting in studies regarding the social context of video games. Video games can lead to a myriad of social experiences for youth, such as providing a topic of conversation or a focus for hanging out among peers [5]. However, almost no studies exist that looks at gaming from the perspective of peer networks. Therefore, this project looks at the effects that video games have on the well-being and social development of youth.

My PhD-project emphasizes on the potential beneficial effects of video games, contrasting with the more common research on negative consequences of game play behavior. The research field has recently been calling out to shift focus from the negative outcomes of gaming to the possible beneficial effects it might have [6-8]. However, the idea of categorizing the effects of playing video games in general as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is far too simplistic. There exists a lot of variety between different games and the way they are played, making this a rather complex behavior. The aim of this project is to pinpoint the elements in video games that promote adolescents’ well-being, while careful consideration is put into examining the complexity of video game play behavior.

In order to do this, the project has been separated in to two different lines of research. The first line will take a descriptive approach to investigate adolescents’ game play behavior and the relation to their psychological and social well-being. This is done using a longitudinal study that collects both self-reported and sociometric data from adolescents in grade seven to ten. Data is gathered on several outcome variables that have been linked to video game play in previous research, such as self-esteem, loneliness and aggression. We want to replicate previous findings as well as gain more insight in specific element of game play behavior for interesting future explorations. Furthermore, peer nominations and ratings will connect this data to adolescents’ social adjustment, such as peer status and social networks. Given the public interest in the effects of video games on youth development, it is remarkable that few existing studies have used sociometric data. The proposed project addresses this gap of information by collecting data in the classroom over multiple waves, using both a cross-sectional and a longitudinal study design.

The second line of research will take an experimental approach in order to test the effects of video game play on behavior causally. More specifically, I examine whether specific elements in games can increase prosocial behavior and affiliation in a lab setting using an experimental study design. The ultimate goal is to investigate whether cooperative video game play at school can be used in order to improve dyadic relationships among peers.


of teenagers in the Netherlands play video games


of teen gamers play video games together with friends or family


of respondents misspelled the name of their favorite game, League of Legends


  • The Benefits of Playing Video Games

    Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2014). American Psychologist, 69, 66-78.

    Author: Isabela Granic

    Upload date: 01-17-2014

  • The interplay between video games and social adjustment in adolescence [Doctoral Dissertation]

    G. P. Verheijen (2020). The interplay between video games and social adjustment in adolescence. Doctoral Thesis. Radboud University.

    Author: Geert Verheijen

    Upload date: 10-13-2020

  • Associations between Different Aspects of Video Game Play Behavior and Adolescent Adjustment

    Verheijen, G. P., Burk, W. J., Stoltz, S. E. M. J., Berg, Y. H. M. v. d., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2019). Journal of Media Psychology, 0, 1-13. doi: 10.1027/1864-1105/a000253

    Author: Geert Verheijen

    Upload date: 03-08-2019

  • The Influence of Competitive and Cooperative Video Games on Behavior During Play and Friendship Quality in Adolescence

    Verheijen, G. P., Stoltz, S. E. M. J., van den Berg, Y. H. M., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2019). Computers in Human Behavior, 91, 297-304. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2018.10.023

    Author: Geert Verheijen

    Upload date: 02-01-2019

  • Friendly fire: Longitudinal effects of exposure to violent video games on aggressive behavior in adolescent friendship dyads

    Verheijen, G. P., Burk, W. J., Stoltz, S. E. M. J., van den Berg, Y. H. M., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2018). Aggressive Behavior, 44, 257-267. doi: 10.1002/ab.21748

    Author: Geert Verheijen

    Upload date: 05-01-2018

Project team

Geert Verheijen title=
Geert Verheijen

Researcher with a focus on the social development of teens, interested in the effects of average, day-to-day video game use. enthusiastic board gamer & self-proclaimed institutional champion of Super Smash Brothers.




E-mail Geert

Sabine Stoltz title=
Sabine Stoltz


Assistant Professor


E-mail Sabine

Yvonne van den Berg title=
Yvonne van den Berg


Assistant Professor


E-mail Yvonne

Toon Cillessen title=
Toon Cillessen


Research Director - Behavioural Science Institute


E-mail Toon


All sources
  1. Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Macgill, A. R., Evans, C., & Vitak, J. (2008). Teens, video games, and civics: Teens' gaming experiences are diverse and include significant social interaction and civic engagement. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from the Pew Internet & American Life Project website:
  2. de Roos, S., & Gommans, R. (2014). Gezondheidsgedrag en mediagebruik. In M. de Looze (Ed.), Hbsc 2013: Gezondheid, welzijn en opvoeding van jongeren in nederland (pp. 61-78). Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht.
  3. Anderson, C. A., Shibuya, A., Ihori, N., Swing, E. L., Bushman, B. J., Sakamoto, A., . . . Saleem, M. (2010). Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in eastern and western countries: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 151-173. doi:10.1037/a0018251
  4. Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Online gaming addiction in children and adolescents: A review of empirical research. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 3-22. doi:10.1556/jba.1.2012.1.1
  5. Ito, M., & Bittanti, M. (2010). Gaming. In M. Ito (Ed.), Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media (pp. 195-242). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  6. Ferguson, C. J. (2010). Blazing angels or resident evil? Can violent video games be a force for good? Review of General Psychology, 14, 68-81. doi:10.1037/a0018941
  7. Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69, 66-78. doi:10.1037/a0034857
  8. Adachi, P. J. C., & Willoughby, T. (2013). Do video games promote positive youth development? Journal of Adolescent Research, 28, 155-165. doi:10.1177/0743558412464522