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PeerJ. 2017 Jun 26;5:e3393. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3393. eCollection 2017.

Pathological game use in adults with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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CARFAX, Inc., Columbia, MO, United States of America.
Department of Health Psychology and Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, United States of America.
Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, United States of America.
Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, United States of America.


This study tested whether adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at higher risk for pathological game use than typically developing (TD) adults. Participants included 119 adults with and without ASD. Participants completed measures assessing daily hours of video game use, percent of free time spent playing video games, and symptoms of pathological game use. The results indicated that adults with ASD endorsed more symptoms of video game pathology than did TD adults. This relationship was strong, enjoying 300,000-to-1 odds in Bayesian model comparison. Results also showed that adults with ASD spent more daily hours playing video games and spent a higher percent of their free time playing video games than did TD adults. Even after adjustment for these differences in daily video game hours and proportion of free time spent on games, model comparisons found evidence for a difference in game pathology scores associated with ASD status. Additionally, escapism motives for playing video games was associated with game pathology scores in both ASD and TD adults, replicating and extending a previous report. In conclusion, the risk for pathological game use appears larger in adults with ASD compared with TD adults. These findings point to pathological game use as a potentially important focus of clinical attention in adults with ASD.


Adults; Autism spectrum disorder; Pathological game use; Video game addiction; Video games

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests. Christopher R. Engelhardt is an employee of CARFAX, Inc., Columbia, Missouri, United States.

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