HealthDay News — Boys with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were more likely to spend excessive amounts of time playing video games compared to boys with typical development, study results indicate.

Boys with an ASD or ADHD spent nearly twice as much time playing games daily (average 2.1 and 1.7 hours daily, respectively) than boys with normal development (average 1.2 hours daily), Micah Mazurek, PhD, of the University of Missouri, and Christopher Engelhardt, PhD, of the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, both in Columbia, reported in Pediatrics.

Additionally, boys with an ASD or ADHD were more likely to have access to video games in their bedrooms and were significantly more likely to show signs of video game addiction, they found.

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“These results shed light into potential associated features of problematic game use and are consistent with previous studies linking impulsivity and inattention with problematic video game use,” the researchers wrote, noting that both impulse control and problems with response inhibition are common among in ASDs and ADHD.

Mazurek and Englehart examined video game use in 56 boys (aged 8 to 18 years) with an ASD, 44 with ADHD and 41 with typical development. Daily hours of video game use, in-room video game use, video game genres, problematic video game use, and ASD and ADHD symptoms were assessed via questionnaires.

Mean participant age was 11.7 years. Most were white, had approximately two siblings on average and lived in households with an annual income of $41,000 or greater.

Among participants with an ASD, 46.4% had an autistic disorder, 25% had Asperger’s disorder and 28.6% had pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

Parents self reported their child’s daily video and computer game use on typical weekday and weekends, specified whether their child had a video game system in their room. They also listed their child’s three favorite video games, which the researchers then characterized based on genre. The Vanderbilt ADHD Parent Rating Scale and the Social Communication Questionnaire were used to assess ADHD and ASD.

Children with an ASD spent significantly more time playing video games on average than children with typical development (P=0.01), the researchers found. Those with ADHD spent more time playing, but the difference did not reach significance.

Greater in-room video game access was seen for the ASD and ADHD groups compared with boys with typical development (P≤0.002). For both the ASD and ADHD groups, inattentive symptoms predicted problematic game use in multivariate models.

Children in the typical development group were signifcantly more likely than those with either disorder to play shooting games (P=0.003) and sports games (P=0.001). In the ASD group, preferences for role-playing games predicted problematic game use (P=0.001).

“These results suggest that children with ASD and those with ADHD may be at particularly high risk for significant problems related to video game play, including excessive and problematic video game use,” the researchers wrote. “The current findings indicate a need for heightened awareness and assessment of problematic video game use in clinical care settings for children with ASD and ADHD.”


  1. Mazurak MO, Engelhardt CR. Pediatrics 2013; doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3956.