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


  • Nicola Döring TU Ilmenau
  • Christine Dietmar TU Ilmenau



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


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


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Author Biographies

Nicola Döring, TU Ilmenau

Nicola DÖRING, Dr. phil., MS.-Psych., is assistant professor of communication studies at the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany. Her research interests include the social aspects of online and mobile communication. Nicola DÖRING has previously published several articles for FQS, including the Collective Review "Soziale Netzwerke und Internet-Spielewelten" [Social Networks and the World of Internet Games] and "Soziale Identifikation mit virtuellen Gemeinschaften" [Social Identification in Virtual Communities] (; the Reviews "Geschlechterforschung und qualitative Methoden" [Gender Research and Qualitative Methods] ( and "Technogene Nähe" [Technogenetic Closeness] (

Christine Dietmar, TU Ilmenau

Christine DIETMAR, MS.-Media Studies, is currently working on her dissertation thesis at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies of the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany, and holds a scholarship with the Landesgraduiertenförderung of Thüringen.



How to Cite

Döring, N., & Dietmar, C. (2003). Mediated Communication in Couple Relationships: Approaches for Theoretical Modeling and First Qualitative Findings. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(3).



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