Volume 6, Issue 3 (August 2019)                   Avicenna J Neuro Psycho Physiology 2019, 6(3): 113-122 | Back to browse issues page

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Mirzakhani L, Heidari A, Hafezi F, Ehteshamzade P, Askari P. The Effects of Positive Psychotherapy on Internet Addiction and Identity Crisis in Female Senior High School Students. Avicenna J Neuro Psycho Physiology 2019; 6 (3) :113-122
URL: http://ajnpp.umsha.ac.ir/article-1-165-en.html
1- Department of Psychology, Khuzestan Campus of Science and Research, Ahvaz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Iran.
2- Department of Psychology, Ahvaz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Ahvaz, Iran. , heidari43@gmail.com
3- Department of Psychology, Ahvaz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Ahvaz, Iran.
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1. Introduction
The use of the internet and social networks greatly influences the values of adolescents and demands; the needs previously met by the family are now met by this new medium [1]. For example, in the past, children’s friendship was under parental control,; however, today, the youth could get acquainted with different people and cultures through online dating, chatting, and so on. Unlike the first generation, which was active in real-world affairs, Internet users are currently engaged in virtual space [2]. Accordingly, many family functions in people’s socialization occurs through this interactive medium in the virtual environment [3]. One of the most critical periods of everyone’s life, i.e. associated with numerous crises and issues, is adolescence. The critical aspect of the development of this era is the period associated with the formation and consolidation of identity. Identity has different dimensions; one of the most important of which is gender identity [4]. Importantly, during this period, the foundation for a healthy adolescent and identity, and especially gender identity, roots from the person’s childhood. In other words, the identification process is indeed formed during adolescence; however, its foundation is shaped in childhood and by the parents [5]. Identity searching is usually associated with experiencing anxiety.
Besides, parents’ anxiety is not less than their teenage [6]. While parents might feel worried about being attached to their child and the lack of a mutual feeling in their children, teenagers complain about not having adequate privacy and assistance from their parents [7]. The primary step in the growth of identity is the separation of adolescent self-concept from parent’s self-concept. In the process of separation from previous childhood attachments, the teenager develops his/her physical, sexual, intellectual, and spiritual identity. Furthermore, using abstract thinking gained through these years, they play an independent role concerning their family, peers, and community. The new identity is manifested in different manners, according to which, the teenager has grown up in the family, and sociocultural settings and lives under different circumstances. The influence of the family on the child is apparent. Parents and relatives create the first foundations of their feelings in the child [8]. A family that provides emotional support and freedom of discovery for a child creates a strong self-empowerment in them. When a family is a secure base for adolescents, the teen confidently moves toward growth and identity strengthening. Gender role learning also occurs almost unknowingly and indirectly.
Furthermore, in the context of such a close relationship with parents, children observe what each parent has, what they say, what they wear, and so on. The children’s learning is not limited to the number of observations of the parents, but the quality of the behavior and speech of others are instructive to them [9]. The family forms not only adaptive behavior but also unhealthy behavior. Therefore, the influence of the family environment on the formation of personality and the adaptive and maladaptive behaviors of individuals cannot be overlooked, especially in youth and adolescence, i.e. the era of identity and independence [10].
The emphasis on positivism does not mean the negation of psychological pathology; the point is that the positive thoughts and feelings and their constant impact on human biopsychological health have been neglected [11]. individuals’ attitude toward life consists of emotions and beliefs. The first essential step to replacing negative views with positive ones is to identify and distinguish between emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. Positive people are healthier and happier, and by problem-solving strategies, they manage mental stress more efficiently than others. This approach emphasizes identifying emotions and controlling feelings and emotions, creating optimism, fighting negative thoughts, and changing mental images [12]. Positive psychology is a scientific study of human virtues and abilities. It is interested in scientific research in the scientific landscape to comprehend the full and wide range of human experiences from inadequacy, suffering, and illness to prosperity, health, well-being, and human happiness. Accordingly, this research assessed the effects of positive psychotherapy on internet addiction and identity crisis in female adolescents.
2. Materials and methods
This was a quasi-experimental study with a pre-test/ post-test and a control group design. The statistical population of this study included senior high school female students and their parents from Falavarjan City (Isfahan Province, Iran) in the 2018-2019 academic year. By a multistage cluster sampling method, three schools were randomly selected in Falavarjan City. Of those, 150 students (each school: 50 students) were randomly selected. Then, a Pre-test was performed, and 40 of those who obtained the highest scores (higher mean scores in internet addiction and identity crisis scales) in the Pre-test were randomly selected and placed (drawn by lot) in two groups of experimental and control (each group included 20 adolescents with their parents). After selecting the study samples and randomly assigning them to the experimental and control groups, written consent forms were obtained from the study participants. Then, the questionnaires were used as a Pre-test in each group. Next, for the experimental group, 8 educational sessions of positive psychotherapy for parents and 9 sessions of positive psychotherapy for adolescents (two-hour group sessions per week) were conducted; however, the control group received no intervention. After the completion of the sessions, both groups were subjected to a Post-test. To observe the ethics of the research, after performing the follow-up test, the intervention was also provided for the control group. The below tools were used for data collection.
Generalized Pathological Internet Use Scale: The Kaplan’s Generalized Pathological Internet Use Scale was designed in 2002 to measure the extent and severity of internet addiction and measure the overall potential harm caused by internet addiction. This questionnaire is composed of 29 questions, designed based on clinical and field experiences. This questionnaire has an excellent internal consistency with a range of 0.88 to 0.85. Kaplan also mentioned the reliability of the questionnaire by Cronbach’s alpha coefficient (0.93) in one of his studies [13]. In another study, the reliability of this questionnaire was obtained as 0.92, and the validity of this questionnaire was averagely reported to be 0.82.
Identity Crisis Questionnaire: Identity crisis is a pencil-and-paper scale with 30 items. This is a researcher-made scale developed by Ahmadi in 1997. The questionnaire identifies the extent of adolescent infections with a stressed identity crisis, including the inappropriateness of sexual behaviors. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for this scale was calculated as 0.86, which indicates that the consistency between the questions in this questionnaire is acceptable. In the study of Bu-Ali Dad and Bami [14], the calculated Cronbach alpha coefficient was 0.89. Additionally, the validity of this inventory using a split-half method was equal to 0.95; thus, it has a high correlation coefficient.
The ethical considerations of the present research were as follows: 1. All individuals received written information about the research and participated in the research voluntarily; 2. The study subjects were assured that all obtained data remains confidential and will only be used for research purposes; 3- To comply with privacy, the name of the study participants was not recorded. Moreover, they were explained that at each stage of the research, they could discontinue participation. After selecting the samples and randomly placing them in two experimental and control groups, treatment initiated in the experimental group. At the treatment onset, it was announced to the study subjects that the sessions were not merely unilaterally delivered, and the participation of the members in the group was encouraged and emphasized. Positive psychotherapy used in this study was conducted in 8 weekly sessions for parents and 9 weekly sessions for adolescents, separately. Table 1 and 2 summarizes the treatment sessions. The intervention was performed in a counseling center in Falavarjan City by the researcher. 
Descriptive statistics were used to describe the demographic characteristics of the study participants and the pre-test, post-test stages of data. Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) was used to determine the significance of the effect of the independent variables on the dependent variables. Data analysis was performed using SPSS.
3. Results
The mean±SD age of the experimental and control groups was 32.8±8.1 and 33.3±8.6 years. Moreover, the duration of imprisonment in the experimental group was 16.1±4.3 months, and the mean duration of imprisonment in the control group was 15.9±3.18 months (Table 3).
To verify the normal distribution of variables, the Kolmogoroph-Smirnov test was used. The significance level was set at P<0.05; therefore, the assumption of the normal distribution of the distribution was established.
As per Table 4, the quadruple tests of MANCOVA related to the variance of the research variables were statistically significant. Therefore, the experimental and control groups significantly differed in at least one of the study variables. In other words, positive psychotherapy, at least in one of the dependent variables, affected the mean values of the experimental group, compared to the controls in the Post-test phase (P<0.0005). This effect or difference was equal to 91%. Thus, 91% of individual differences in internet addiction scores and identity crises related to the impact of group membership. The statistical power of an indicator was sufficient for the sample size.
As per Table 5, positive psychotherapy significantly reduced internet addiction (F=117.02, P<0.0005) and identity crisis (F=146.199, P<0.0005) in female adolescents (P<0.0005).
4. Discussion
The present study results suggested that positive psychotherapy significantly reduced internet addiction among girls participating in the study (P<0.0005). This finding was consistent with those of Khazaei et al. [15].
Accordingly, we could highlight the impact of positive psychotherapy on improving the quality and quantity of interpersonal contact among adolescents. As previously mentioned, the literature supports the fruitful effects of positive psychotherapy on improving interpersonal relationships [16]. Furthermore, one of the factors behind the tendency of adolescents to excessive internet use and addiction to the internet could be loneliness, social isolation, and decreased quality of interpersonal relationships [17]. Internet addicts primarily enjoy the internet’s dimensions, which allows them to socialize and exchange ideas with others. Therefore, positive psychotherapy, through improving social relationships, could be considered as an internet addiction intervention process [18]. There was also a relationship between internet addiction and family and patterns; the level of internet addiction in consensual and liberal families was higher [19]. Therefore, improving the quality of family communication patterns could reduce the inclination to addictive use of the internet in adolescents. In addition to the relationship’s quality, research has reported that internet addiction is positively correlated with emotional and avoidance coping strategies [20]. There is much evidence that excitement fluctuations are linked to the problem of internet use [21]. 
Using the internet could be a jump platform to escape reality and distracting stress and negative emotions. Moreover, individuals with emotional disturbances often use the internet as a way to regulate negative emotions, leading to internet addiction. Besides, positive psychotherapy could increase the emotional level of positive people, decrease the experience of negative emotions, and consequently reduce the tendency to extreme use of the internet in adolescents [22]. Another positive effect of reducing internet addiction could be attributed to improving self-esteem and self-concept among the studied adolescents. According to the literature, internet addiction and low self-esteem and low self-esteem are correlated, as a significant predictor of internet addiction [23].
Low self-esteem leads some people to seek temporary relief of life problems through attending activities that they could escape from reality [24]. Therefore, the extreme use of the internet could be a strategy to compensate for perceived deficiencies and disadvantages, like self-esteem [25]. People with low self-esteem often use the internet to feel better about themselves and their conditions. The internet seems to provide people with activities, leading to feelings of elevated self-confident and self-awareness, and they appear to have higher self-esteem there. In addition, studies revealed that positive psychotherapy improves self-concept and self-esteem [26]. 
Positive psychotherapy, focusing on identifying the strengths and abilities of individuals and avoiding high emphasis on weaknesses and vulnerabilities, could improve their self-esteem; consequently, it can reduce the tendency of extreme use of the internet to compensate for the damaged effective self-esteem. Therefore, increasing the self-esteem of adolescents participating in this intervention has made them less willing to extremely use the internet. It also resulted in forming virtual relationships to recover from the injuries they inflicted on their self-esteem in real life and through real-life relationships.
Accordingly, the influence of positive psychotherapy on improving one’s attitude towards oneself is due to focusing more on strengths instead of weaknesses. Positive psychotherapy focuses on searching for a balanced narrative of references and examining its strengths from multiple perspectives. It also addresses the use of these strengths in identifying meaningful personal goals and seeking opportunities to help individuals identify their strengths. Such a procedure could help adolescents with better self-awareness and self-esteem and, consequently, fostering positive identities [27]. From the perspective of positive psychology, self-esteem, self-actualization, and self-image in a dialectical relationship form the process of identity. Furthermore, self-esteem, self-actualization, and self-image, in a dialectical relationship, create the process of identity. In positive psychology, identity derives from the expression of an individual’s unmatched personality, i.e. a real self that includes the inner potentials of a person and strengths, as well as limitations and weaknesses [28]. 
Therefore, conducting positive thinking exercises could help to increase their ability to discover their strengths, increase their association with themselves, improve self-awareness, and self-acceptance. Moreover, achieving a practical knowledge of self is the key to solving the identity crisis. Erickson believes that when three dimensions of self, the individual, and the community are combined, that is likely to be a solution to the identity crisis. In other words, when the potentialities and interests of a teenager are associated with the opportunities of the social environment, the identity crisis is also solved. In this context, the positive psychotherapy allows adolescents to experience valuable opportunities and social situations that might increase their ability to take responsibility and decide on themselves. Positive psychotherapy for adolescents also helps in establishing peace between the person who wants to be and the person whom the community expects to be.
Furthermore, this new sense of self-appearing is created by the positive intermingling of past experiences with future expectations [29]. In addition, the positive psychotherapy allows teenagers to create rewarding and satisfying relationships to form clear life goals, interact adequately with parents and peers, and develop intimate relationships and positive self-esteem. Unlike the lack of integration of the concept of self and others, this process is in contrast to the lack of capacity for self-definition and commitment to the values and goals, relationships, and the sharp sense of the disrupted experience in the context of the identity crisis.
 Moreover, a negative identity in adolescents could be created due to an unclear understanding of oneself and their abilities and their place in life. At the same time, positive psychotherapy allows adolescents to accept their qualities and skills and foster a positive identity. Another explanation of this finding is the impact of positive psychotherapy on finding meaning in life. The meaningfulness of life is correlated with psychological well-being and mental well-being, academic success, job satisfaction, physical health, and positive identity, resulting in the formation of a favorable sense of self and life [30]. The positive psychotherapy focuses on using the strengths of clients and on the capabilities, meaning, purpose, and strategies in which individual strengths could serve something meaningful and beyond self. These exercises teach the authorities to validate and invest in valuable individual and interpersonal moments and pursue meaning and purpose. Besides, they could be useful in shaping a coherent and integrated identity. Generally, the contents used in a positive psychotherapy program include teaching young people new forms of interaction based on collaboration, methods of interlinking, constructive conflict resolution, self-awareness development, increased confidence in their abilities, optimizing positive experiences, neutralizing the level of perceptive behavior, and the creation and consolidation of positive patterns of behavior; these interventions are useful as corrective psychological tools for resolving the identity crisis of adolescence [18]. By training the skills required to have optimism and positivity with flexibility and reality-based to adolescents, they could be psychologically immunized against adolescent issues and problems, especially the identity crisis.
In positive thinking, individuals are encouraged to recognize their positive experiences and identify their role in enhancing and promoting their self-esteem; while concurrently gaining the ability to recognize the positive aspects of life and others. They could also take an active position in life and shape their lives personally, rather than taking whatever passively happens to them. Accordingly, such a position plays a significant role in the successful passing of the identity crisis. Positive learning could increase the sense of greater control over life. Additionally, adopting a positive image of oneself could enable people to take more responsibility for their credibility and value and achieve a better understanding of themselves. The study participants seemed to realize their abilities and talents and that if they use them well, they could succeed and could find solutions to their problems. Moreover, they strived to foster their skills and abilities. Overall, the present study results supported the impact of positive psychotherapy on reducing internet addiction and the identity crisis in female adolescents; thus, it could provide useful data for working with adolescents.
This research has been conducted on a small sample of senior high school female adolescents in Falavarjan City; therefore, there are limitations in generalizing the results to other age groups and adolescents as well as male adolescents. Due to the time lag, it was impossible to conduct a follow-up stage; therefore, the long-term reliability of results must be further investigated. This research was designed only for adolescents using self-report questionnaires; thus, it was impossible to review parent’s views on the considered variables. It is recommended that a similar study be conducted on a sample of male adolescents. It is suggested that the effect of positive psychotherapy on other variables related to the well-being of adolescents, such as quality of life, mental health, suicidal tendency, self-incrimination, tendency to use drugs, etc. be explored. It is suggested that in future studies, in addition to self-report questionnaires, additional tools, such as interviewing adolescents, their parents, and their coaches, be used to obtain more accurate data. It is suggested that in future studies, by performing a follow-up phase, the reliability of treatment outcomes in long-term periods be considered.
Moreover, school counselors should be trained to conduct positive group psychotherapy sessions. Positive psychotherapy could be included in school education sessions. Such sessions should be regularly organized in school counseling activities for children and adolescents. Positive thinking is recommended to be practically and straightforwardly taught to teenagers and their families in the form of booklets and educational films. Relevant organizations, like the Child and Adolescent Intellectual Center, are suggested to use the principles of positive psychotherapy innovatively, in the formulation of books and magazines of interest to students. Eventually, the principles and foundations of positive psychotherapy, in the field of theater and creative displays, should be presented to students and families.
The study findings suggested that positive psychotherapy impacted internet addiction and identity crisis in female senior high school students.
Ethical Considerations
Compliance with ethical guidelines
All ethical principles were considered in this research. The study participants were informed about the purpose of the research and its implementation stages and signed the informed consent. They were also assured about the confidentiality of their provided information. Moreover, they were allowed to leave the study whenever they wished, and if desired, the research results would be available to them. This research was approved by the relevant Ethics Research Committee (code: IR.IAU.AHVAZ.REC.1397.010).
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. 

Authors' contributions
All authors contributed equally in preparing all parts of the research.
Conflict of interest
The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Article Type: Research Article | Subject: General
Received: 2019/09/9 | Accepted: 2019/10/12 | Published: 2019/12/8

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