Negotiating the Breakup of Romantic Relationships in an Era of New Media

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Wreford, Julia
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University of Guelph

Existing research indicates that the relationship between post-breakup contact and recovery is complicated, particularly when new media provide the avenue for such contact (Lukacs, 2012; Marshall, 2012). The primary objective of this dissertation was to gain a more meaningful understanding of the post-breakup relational landscape for young people, taking into account the intersection of new media and breakups. More specifically, the objectives were to investigate the impact that new media has had on perceived breakup norms, to assess whether or not young people act in a way that is consistent with such norms, and to establish whether, and under what conditions, post-breakup contact can be healthy. To meet these goals, the current investigation involved a qualitative survey for Study 1 (N= 97), and a set of interviews for Study 2 (N= 27), to explore the behaviours and perceived emerging norms of young people who are navigating post-breakup decisions. Questions in both studies were designed to learn more about post-breakup contact, with special attention paid to the impact new media have had on post-breakup contact. Results of both Study 1 and Study 2 indicated that a number of new perceived norms have emerged for post-breakup contact as a result of the incorporation of new media into such norms. Results of Study 2 also indicated that while young people are aware that certain norms for post-breakup contact exist, they do not always act in a way that is congruent with their own personal normative beliefs. When there is incongruence, young people engage in motivated reasoning (Kunda, 1990) to explain their behaviour. Implications that take into account the weight of social norms, while remaining cognizant of young peoples’ post-breakup recovery, are discussed.

Breakups, New Media, Technology, Romantic Relationships, Facebook, Relationship Dissolution