The Role of Text Messaging in Close Relationships Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Clark, Jenna
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Supportive close relationships are integral to health and well-being. According to the interpersonal process model of intimacy (Reis & Shaver, 1988), high-quality relationships are built through everyday interactions that allow partners to demonstrate responsiveness. Social interactions in today’s world are increasingly likely to occur over technological channels such as text messaging; however, little research has investigated what role text messaging might play in close relationships. In Study 1, 180 college undergraduates reported on the presence of four relational behaviors within their last four conversations with their most frequent texting partner. Each relational behavior was present in between 35-60% of conversations, with 88% of relational behaviors receiving positive responses from relational partners. The presence of each relational behavior within a conversation also independently and significantly predicted perceived partner responsiveness in the conversation. Study 2 examined the potentially unique benefits of text messaging on maintaining a sense of connection with relational partners. Over a three-day period, 272 college undergraduates were assigned to increase, maintain, or stop usual texting behavior with their most frequent texting partner. Individuals who stopped texting reported significant declines in connection, responsiveness, and relationship satisfaction with their texting partner. The decline in relationship satisfaction was mediated by connection but not responsiveness. These similarities and differences raise questions about the overall relational potential of texting as a medium for establishing new relationships. In Study 3, 180 college undergraduates were randomly assigned to novel pairs, each pair then assigned to a control, daily texting, or relational texting condition for a two-week experimental period. At the end of the experiment, participants in the daily or relational texting conditions reported significantly higher levels on five markers of relationship quality than participants in the control condition, suggesting that texting provides sufficient relational value to aid the formation of close relationships. Across three studies, this work demonstrates that text messaging can contribute to relationship growth and maintenance in ways both similar and dissimilar to face-to-face interaction. Moreover, texting can also serve as a useful interaction medium for the establishment of new relationships. Additional directions for future research beyond this starting point are also discussed.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Payne, B. Keith
  • Sheeran, Paschal
  • Jones, Deborah
  • Algoe, Sara
  • Fredrickson, Barbara
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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