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15 - A Lifetime of Relationships Mediated by Technology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2009

Frieder R. Lang
Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenburg, Germany
Karen L. Fingerman
Purdue University, Indiana
Rebecca G. Adams
Department of Sociology, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, P. O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
Michelle L. Stevenson
Center for Gerontology (0426), 237 Wallace Hall, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0426
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Although recent technological developments have made transportation and communication faster, more efficient, and more accessible, relationship theorists and researchers have been slow to adapt. This chapter outlines a synthetic dynamic framework for the study of a lifetime of relationships mediated by technology, which integrates theories of individual development, life course, family development, and network change. Although this framework could be used to generate questions about the effects of any type of technology on social relationships, because communication via the Internet has become common and has already contributed dramatically to the reduction of geographic constraints on relationships, we illustrate the use of this framework by generating questions about its effects.

Research has repeatedly verified Homans's (1950) proposition that increased interaction leads to increased liking (e.g., Hays, 1984, 1985). This suggests that any change in technology that facilitates increased contact among family and friends would contribute to the solidarity of relationships. It is common knowledge that changes in communications and transportation technologies during the last 150 years have made contact among kin and friends, whether separated by small or great distances, less expensive, faster, and easier. Although numerous studies have been conducted on the social impact of previous technological developments, such as the telephone and automobile (e.g., Fischer & Carroll, 1988; Martin, 1991; Pool, 1983), the effects of the most recent developments in electronic communications on social relationships have not been studied extensively (see Parks & Floyd, 1996, and Watt & White, 1999, for exceptions).

Growing Together
Personal Relationships Across the Life Span
, pp. 368 - 394
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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