Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wayne State research on love for Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!

Yes, love is a subject of academic research.  Follow over the jump for two complete press releases from Wayne State University on how technology affects long-distance love and how the loves of pre-teens affect their future behavior, along with commentary on how my experiences relate to the findings of the studies.

First, here's a subject close to my heart.

Long-distance love: technology can help relationships survive this Valentine’s Day, Wayne State University researcher says
February 13, 2013
DETROIT — Whether they’re in the same house or continents apart this Valentine’s Day, romantic partners have a lot of communication tools available to help them stay part of each other’s lives.

Technology can be very useful in maintaining romantic relationships despite temporal or geographic separation, said Katheryn Maguire, Ph.D., associate professor of communication in Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, but traditional means of communication still are critical for handling the more complex issues that arise between partners.

“The idea of maintaining a romantic relationship at a distance coincides with the notion of face-to-face contact as being essential; without that physical contact, some would even question if it is a real relationship. But with the help of communication technologies, these relationships can survive and even thrive,” Maguire said.

She has studied the use of technologically mediated communication (TMC) and believes that while there are similarities between distanced and proximal relationships when it comes to achieving mutual goals and tasks, sometimes communicating through technology can lead to unforeseen complications. Maguire’s recent work has focused on using TMC to maintain relationships, including those of wives whose husbands are serving overseas in the armed services.

Such long-distance relationships can lead to stress and coping issues, another focus of her research. Maguire’s best advice to couples trying to maintain such relationships is to “hang in there.”

“When you know you’re only going to be apart for a set amount of time (like a year), that knowledge alone makes people more satisfied and enables them to say, ‘I can do this,’” she said.

Maguire suggests that those in long-distance relationships find fun and creative ways to use technology, such as both parties reading the same book and then discussing chapters along the way online. 

“There are ways to use the technologies available to you,” she said. “Take the channel that works for what it is you want to talk about. For just a quick ‘hi’ or ‘I love you,’ a text is great.”

Maguire is quick to add, however, that old-school methods still work to enhance the sense of connection.

“Letters, particularly handwritten, have more weight than TMC,” she said. “They are gifts. You’re touching something the other person touched. And for something more serious, you probably need to have that phone conversation.”
I've had more than my share of long-distance relationships.  My ex-wife lived 60 miles away from me, and that was pre-Internet, so we did a lot of phone communication while we were dating.  My ex-girlfriend and my second wife both lived more than 250 miles away, which meant that I used the Internet a lot while dating.  I'm glad that the past five-and-a-half years my wife and I have been living together, but even then we still use technology to keep us together, even if it's just Facebook and MMO's.

Now, how middle-school experiences with puppy love can either maintain or break bad habits.

Adolescent romantic partners can impact adjustment to adulthood, Wayne State University researcher says
February 11, 2013
DETROIT — Although adolescents’ romantic relationships may not stand the test of time, the person they’d most like to spend this Valentine’s Day with may make a difference later in their lives.

Valerie Simon, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Wayne State University and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development, has found that the combination of adolescent and partner characteristics predicts how early dating experiences are related to adolescents’ adjustment.

Simon’s work focuses on myriad factors that affect adolescents’ romantic and sexual development. Her research indicates that levels of cigarette smoking, alcohol use and behavior problems in poorly adjusted sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who dated poorly adjusted partners remained about the same, while high-functioning partners appeared to mitigate the problems of poorly adjusted subjects.

While similar processes have been demonstrated within friend pairings and peer groups, Simon said her team’s findings are among the first to demonstrate the unique selection and socialization effects in adolescents’ romantic relationships.

“Moreover, it is the combination of adolescent and partner characteristics that appears to predict how early dating experiences shape adolescent adjustment,” she said.

She also believes that while the influence of romantic partners appears distinct from that of best friends, the two relationships often coexist within the same social network with interactive effects on adolescent adjustment. However, she said, whom adolescents date is vital to understanding the influence of romantic relationships on their adjustment.

“Adolescents’ romantic relationship experiences are consequential during adolescence and have the potential to affect adult relationships and well-being,” Simon said. “They are associated with a diverse range of psychosocial and health outcomes during adolescence and beyond.”
Here's to hoping that my now-grown children were good influences on their first boyfriends/girlfriends.  I certainly don't think their first boyfriends and girlfriends were good influences on them!

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