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Technology & Innovation

Facebook Families Vs. E-Mail Families

Preliminary research shows that family dynamics — specifically, the levels of conversation — play a role in which methods of online communication are used for keeping in touch.

What’s the Latest Development?

Research done by University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral student Emily Cramer and professor of communication Edward Mabry indicates that families in which open conversation is encouraged tend to use “richer” technologies, such as Facebook and Skype, to keep in touch with each other, while families who prefer to avoid conflict and enforce conformity stick with e-mail, texting, and phone calls. The findings, which were presented at this year’s International Association for Relationship Research Conference, were based on a survey of US college students about their preferred forms of communication with siblings and parents.

What’s the Big Idea?

Very little research has been done on how family dynamics contribute to the adoption and use of new communication technologies. While students tended to prefer the communication methods used by their parents in general, “students from the…‘conformity’ families tended to communicate less with their parents than did the students from more ‘conversational’ families.” A separate study revealed that family size also affected the amount of communication that took place, with students from larger families talking with their siblings more often than with their parents regardless of the medium used.

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