Gaining a competitive edge: Longitudinal associations between children’s competitive video game playing, conduct problems, peer relations, and prosocial behavior.

Playful competition is an important hallmark of healthy child development. Playful competition facilitates moral learning, rewards perspective-taking skills, and challenges children to healthily regulate unpleasant emotions such as frustration, anger, and jealousy. Despite this, research on the effects of competitive video gaming has focused on antisocial outcomes, such as declines in prosocial behavior. Moreover, methodological shortcomings such as experimental studies using designs with poor generalizability, and a lack of longitudinal studies, leave open the influence of competitive gaming on social development among preadolescent children. This longitudinal study therefore investigated the relation between competitive gaming and changes in children’s social development across 3 measures: conduct problems, peer relations, and prosocial behavior. At 2 timepoints, 1 year apart, 184 Dutch children (8.31—12.68 years old) reported their gaming frequency and listed their favorite games to play, and their parents reported their children’s psychosocial health. Children’s nominations were coded as including or not including a competitive video game. Children who nominated a competitive game at the first time point were more likely to show a decrease in conduct problems and an improvement in peer relations. No interactions were observed between competitive gaming and gaming frequency. These results encourage future research to investigate the social benefits of playful competitive gaming among peers, and for future studies to take other variables such as violent content, cooperative play, and real world competitive play into account. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)