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Internet Addiction and Academic Anxiety Among Chinese College Students During COVID-19: The Mediating Role of Psychological Contract.

PURPOSE: The objective of this study is to investigate the underlying mechanism connecting internet addiction and academic anxiety, with the aim of assisting higher education professionals and administrators in developing comprehensive solutions to effectively mitigate the systemic risks associated with these issues.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: This study utilizes the smart data collection instrument of Wenjuanxing to gather data from 270 Chinese college students through an online questionnaire survey. Through building and analyzing a structural equation model that consists of four latent variables, such as internet addiction, relational psychological contract, transactional psychological contract, and academic anxiety. The study analyzed the fundamental characteristics of the transformation mechanism of Internet addiction and academic anxiety. It specifically focused on conducting a mediating effects test of the psychological contract variable to validate the significant role of both relational psychological contract and transactional psychological contract in this transformation mechanism.

RESULTS: First, the study found that internet addiction (β=0.094; p=0.179) cannot directly impact academic anxiety. It can only influence academic anxiety through the mediating effects of the relational psychological contract (β=0.088; p=0.022) and the transactional psychological contract (β=0.123; p=0.003), with the latter having a more significant impact. Second, the destructive effect of Internet addiction on relational psychological contracts (β=-0.496; p<0.001) is greater than that on transactional psychological contracts (β=-0.476; p<0.001). Third, compared to the weakening of the relational psychological contract (β=-0.177; p=0.017), the weakening of the transactional psychological contract (β=-0.258; p=0.001) has a more significant impact on college students' academic anxiety.

CONCLUSION: This study shows that the weakening of the corresponding psychological contract is the key link for the development of Internet addiction into academic anxiety. Stabilizing the psychological contracts at the psychological level of college students can help suppress the vicious transformation process from internet addiction to academic anxiety, ensuring students' mental health and reducing systemic risks in educational work.

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