By Sandy Hemphill, Contributing Writer, BabyMed
Aren’t cellphones wonderful??? It’s truly amazing to think that in the palm of one’s hand lies access to just about all the knowledge, information, and entertainment in the world and a way to contact just about everybody on the planet in various ways. Right now! All this with just the touch of a thumb or the flick of a finger.
It sounds great, it sells phones, but researchers at Baylor University say it also wrecks romantic relationships and triggers depression.
“In everyday interactions with significant others, people often assume that momentary distractions by their cell phones are not a big deal,” said Dr. Meredith David, an assistant professor of marketing at the university in Waco, Texas. A study she recently conducted with Dr. James A. Roberts, another Baylor marketing professor, found that overzealous cellphone use “can undermine the bedrock of our happiness — our relationships with our romantic partners.” The researchers have even given the phenomenon a name: pphubbing.
Pphubbing is a play on the phrase “partner phone snubbing.” It describes the degree to which one person uses or is distracted by his/her cellphone when in the presence of a romantic partner. The researchers devised a two-part study to see if pphubbing truly does affect relationships.
Partner Pphubbing Scale
In this nine-item part of the study, the researchers enlisted 308 adults to rate by scale which of a list of behaviors the respondent considered pphubbing. Some of the pphubbing behaviors included:
- Partner keeping the cellphone in sight when the couple is together.
- Keeping the cellphone in hand when together.
- Frequent glances at the cellphone during conversations with the romantic partner.
- Checking in with the cellphone during conversation lulls.
Pphubbing While Romancing
This portion of the study involved 145 adults actively engaged in romantic relationships. In addition to the nine-item survey used in the first phase of study, this part also included personal assessment of one’s satisfaction with the relationship, with life in general, and feelings of depression. It also identified people whose interpersonal attachment styles were:
- Anxious attachment — less secure in the relationship.
- Secure attachment — confidently secure in the relationship.
This second phase of study revealed:
- 32% reported satisfaction in their romantic relationship.
- 46% said they were pphubbed by their love interest.
- 23% felt pphubbing caused relationship conflict.
- 37% felt depressed some of the time.
People with anxious attachment styles were more bothered by pphubbing than those with secure attachment styles. When pphubbing was added as a factor along with low romantic satisfaction, satisfaction with life in general diminished, too, and depression was more likely.
More Pphubbing, Less Satisfaction
Momentary distractions may seem to be no big deal, according to David, but she said the study revealed something different. “Our findings suggest that the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by one individual attending to his/her cellphone, the less likely it is that the other individual is satisfied in the overall relationship.”
For romance to blossom and remain harmonious and supportive, the researchers urge couples to be more aware of how cellphone interruptions are handled and how they affect one’s romantic partner.
- Roberts, James A., and Meredith E. David. "My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners." Computers in Human Behavior 54 (2016): 134-41. ScienceDirect. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
- "‘Cellphone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness – our relationships with our romantic partners,’ researcher says." Baylor Media Communications. Baylor University, 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.