Ringtones to Reminders: Blurred Boundaries and Family Use of Communication Technology and Media




Barrie, Courtney Kristine

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For this master's thesis project, I investigate and illuminate the creative and strategic decisions parents and adult children in nuclear families employ when taking advantage of new media communication technology (e.g., smartphones, email, internet video calling, social networking, etc.) to maintain connections between adult family members. Specifically, this project fills a gap in the sociological literature by addressing how relationships between parents and their emerging adult children are shaped and mediated through the support of communication technology and media. Using diverse theoretical concepts such as family adaptive strategies, connected presence, and concerted cultivation, I analyze approximately thirty in-depth interviews with middle-aged parents (ages 39-62) and their corresponding emerging adult children (ages 18-29) who use communication technology as one primary method for communicating with one another. Among other findings, this study reveals the many ways in which communication technology and media can serve as a bridge and a barrier between and within families. The thesis concludes by specifying the implications of these findings and identifying promising avenues for future research.


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Communication, Concerted cultivation, Emerging adults, Media, Parenting, Technology