Using technology to unobtrusively observe relationship development

Miriam Brinberg, Rachel Reymann Vanderbilt, Denise Haunani Solomon, David Brinberg, Nilam Ram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Texting plays an increasingly important role in romantic relationships. Along with the increased use and impact of technology in and on relationships, technology provides new approaches to observe and study relationships. This study demonstrates the potential for using unobtrusive measures of texting obtained through mobile data donation for the study of communication behaviors during relationship development. In particular, we examine how texting behaviors change prior to relationship formation and during a relationship transition. Our analysis of 1+ million text messages that 41 college-age romantic couples sent to each other during their first year of dating demonstrates (a) the utility of digital trace data for studying romantic relationship development, (b) the importance of obtaining and analyzing actual texting behaviors when observing interpersonal communication that is frequent, fast, and variable, and (c) the need for more theoretical specificity in how and why different kinds of communication behaviors change as relationships develop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3429-3450
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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