Technology, communication, and couples’ intimacy: a study of technology use behavior and intimate relationships

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily C. Campbell (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Christine Murray

Abstract: In recent decades, technology development and use have proliferated societies across the world (Cole et al., 2009). Technology is defined as innovative equipment with specific functions that people use to achieve a goal (Parasuraman, 2000). In general, technology advancements have become an integral part of North Americans’ daily routines (Duggan, & Brenner, 2013; Rainie, 2010; Smith, 2012). As a result, technology influences the structure and processes of intimate relationships (Hertlein, 2012; Hertlein & Blumer, 2014). Hertlein and Blumer (2014) developed the Couple and Family Technology framework to explain the impacts of technology on intimate relationships. According to this framework, technology has transformed individuals’ interactions including the initiation, maintenance, and termination processes within romantic relationships. The relationship between technology and intimate relationships, however, is multifaceted. Partners’ uses of technology can impact their relational intimacy, and couples’ pre-existing relationship dynamics can impact how they use technology in their intimate relationships (Campbell & Murray, in press; Hertlein, 2012; Hertlein & Ancheta; Lanigan, 2009; Murray & Campbell, in press). Therefore, couples are confronted with negotiating patterns of technology use in order to become satisfied with ones’ own and ones’ partners’ technology use behaviors. Current literature trends indicate that positive and negative impacts of technology on couples’ intimacy are evident (Hertlein & Ancheta, 2014; Hertlein & Blumer, 2014; Murray & Campbell, in press). To date, however, minimal research has been done to identify the individual and relational characteristics that influence technology use on relational intimacy. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify individual and relational background characteristics that impact how partners view and use technology, as well as examine the impact partners’ use has on their relational intimacy. Specifically, this study was used to determine if there are identifiable groups of people based on the following characteristics: Technology readiness (TR), couple communication, and uses of technology that enhance or reduce couples’ intimacy. In addition, the impact of participants’ personal and relational background characteristics (i.e., age, gender, relationship duration, and relationship satisfaction) were examined to inform clinicians about different types of technology engagement that can positively or negatively impact couples’ intimacy. In this study, it was found that four clusters existed based on scores of TR, communication, intimacy-enhancing and intimacy-reducing uses of technology. Each group was provided with an identification descriptive label (i.e., Secure, Pursuer, Dismissive, and Fearful) based on the unique combination of variables of each group. Group differences were most relative to the newly developed variables of couple communication (CC) and technology-mediated intimacy (TMI). The demographic variables of age, relationship duration, and gender also contributed to differences among the clusters. A final finding of this study was that partners’ intimacy-enhancing and intimacy- reducing uses of technology were significant predictors of relationship satisfaction. The clinical implications of these results and directions for future research are discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Communication, Counseling, Couples, Intimacy, Relationship satisfaction, Technology
Technology $x Social aspects
Couples $x Effect of technological innovations on
Couples $x Psychology
Couples therapy
Interpersonal relations
Interpersonal communication
Intimacy (Psychology)

Email this document to