Romantic Relationship Quality in the Digital Age: A Study with Young Adults

Span J Psychol. 2017 May 3:20:E24. doi: 10.1017/sjp.2017.20.


Recent studies suggest that the online and offline behaviors young people display in romantic relationships are closely related. However, the differential effects of the dimensions of couple quality in the online context have not yet been explored in depth. The aim of this study was to explore online couple quality in young-adult relationships, and its association with romantic relationship satisfaction, also looking at effects of gender, age, and length of the relationship. 431 university students currently in a romantic relationship (68.2% females; mean age = 21.57) participated in this study. They completed different self-report measures to tap the online quality of their romantic relationships (online intimacy, control, jealousy, intrusiveness, cyberdating practices, and communication strategies) and level of satisfaction with those relationships. Results showed that participants more often reported online intimacy (M men = 2.49; M women = 2.38) than the negative scales of online quality (mean ranged from .43 to 1.50), and all the online quality scales decreased with age (correlations ranged from -.12 to -.30) and relationship length (correlations ranged from -.02 to -.20). Linear regression analyses indicated that online intimacy (b = .32, p = .001) and intrusiveness (b = .11, p = .035) were positively related to relationship satisfaction, while cyberdating practices (b = -.20, p = .001) and communication strategies (b = -.34, p = .001) were negatively correlated with relationship satisfaction. Moreover, gender and relationship length moderated some of these associations. Results indicate that while online quality and relationship satisfaction are related, the impact of different online quality dimensions on relationship satisfaction differs depending on a participant's sex, age, and relationship length.

Keywords: communication; online couple quality; romantic relationships; satisfaction; young people.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Communication*
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Jealousy
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult