Internet addiction (IA) is an emerging social and mental health issue among youths. Analysis of risk factors, as well as their interactions, is crucial for understanding the development of IA. This study investigated the relationship between recent stressful life events, personality traits, perceived family functioning and IA in 892 college students. Subjects were classified into categories (non-addicted, mild IA or severe IA) using the Chen Internet Addiction Scale. Stressful life events, personality traits and family functioning were assessed using the Adolescent Self-Rating Life Events Checklist, the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Scale, respectively. The results indicated that compared with non-addicted subjects, subjects with severe IA (9.98%) had lower family functioning, lower extraversion, higher neuroticism and psychoticism, and more stressful life events, and subjects with mild IA (11.21%) had higher neuroticism and more health and adaptation problems. Neuroticism and health and adaptation problems were potential predictors of IA. An interaction effect between psychoticism and total life stress on IA was also found. These findings highlight the role of personality traits and life stress and their interactions in college students' IA. Further research should explore the mechanisms underlying the interaction effect of psychoticism with life stress on IA. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.