Adolescents’ daily face-to-face and computer-mediated communication: Associations with autonomy and closeness to parents and friends

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review




External departments

  • University of California at Santa Cruz
  • Western Washington University


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-164
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date31 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The amount of time adolescents spend communicating via digital technologies such as smartphones has led to concerns that computer-mediated communication (CMC) is displacing face-to-face (FtF) interactions and disrupting social development. Although many studies have examined CMC in adolescents' relationships with friends, few studies have examined the role of CMC in adolescents' renegotiation of closeness and autonomy with parents. To examine this issue, we administered an online daily diary with 169 U.S. adolescents to estimate the time they spend in CMC and FtF interactions and the number of texts they exchange with friends and parents. On the last day of the survey, we asked adolescents about their emotional closeness to friends and parents and their balance of closeness and volition with parents. Overall, we found more evidence for social stimulation than displacement effects of CMC. Texts and CMC time with friends predicted friend closeness after accounting for FtF time with friends; texts with parents predicted parent closeness after accounting for FtF time with parents. We also found support for our hypothesis that CMC would be associated with greater adolescent volition. CMC time with parents predicted greater volitional dependence (volition plus closeness) whereas texts with friends predicted greater independent decision-making (volition plus distance). We discuss how communication technologies are integrated into U.S. adolescents' relationships with friends and parents and how CMC can facilitate, rather than stifle, adolescents' adjustment of autonomy-relatedness with parents and their construction of emotional closeness with friends.

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