Mediated Communication in Couple Relationships: Approaches for Theoretical Modeling and First Qualitative Findings

Nicola Döring, Christine Dietmar

Abstract


A growing part of communication in couple relationships involves technical means such as the conventional telephone, the cell phone and the Internet. This study examines how telecommunication media are integrated in the couples' everyday life based on three theoretical approaches: 1. Using the Theory of Interpersonal Media Choice, different profiles of couple's media use were analyzed. 2. By adopting the Social Exchange Theory it was investigated to what extent couples regard their telecommunication messages (i.e. letters, e-mails, SMS) as emotional resources and if and how they strive to achieve equity regarding this message exchange. 3. Attachment theory was adopted to find out how attachment styles affect media use within couple relationships and which role telecommunication media play in attachment situations (i.e. distressing situations in which the partner's support is strongly sought). Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with N=10 respondents (5 couples). A qualitative content analysis of the interview data revealed that couples develop very different patterns of media use, that they indeed see telecommunication messages as emotional resources and that they are able to cope with attachment situations successfully, especially via mobile communication. But sometimes telecommunication media also seem to generate new communication problems. Further research is needed to better understand how telecommunication is embedded in couple relationships and how it transforms couple communication.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs030320

Keywords


couple relationships; romantic relationships; interpersonal communication; mobile communication; theory of interpersonal media choice; exchange theory; attachment theory; qualitative content analysis; semi-structured interview