A study of married individuals in Turkey has found that phubbing negatively predicts marital satisfaction. But the new research provides evidence that effective communication acts as a mediating factor, suggesting that improving communication skills could mitigate the detrimental impact of phubbing on marital relationships. The findings appear in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
Phubbing, a portmanteau of “phone” and “snubbing,” refers to the behavior of paying more attention to your smartphone or mobile device instead of engaging with the people around you in social situations. It involves ignoring others and becoming absorbed in the digital world while physically present in a social setting.
Previous research has indicated that phubbing behavior is linked to negative relationship outcomes, particularly in romantic relationships. It has been associated with decreased relationship satisfaction, reduced feelings of intimacy, and increased conflict.
Given these findings, the researchers were motivated to delve deeper into understanding the specific effects of phubbing on marital satisfaction. In particular, they sought to explore whether effective communication skills act as an intermediate factor that helps explain why and how phubbing behavior might lead to negative consequences within a marriage.
“Phubbing is now an important problem all over the world. I research phubbing in different populations. One of the most important groups affected by phubbing among married couples,” said study author İzzet Parmaksız, an associate professor at Niğde Ömer Halisdemir University.
The researchers gathered information from 712 married individuals in Turkey. Of these participants, 48.7% were females, and 51.3% were males. Their ages ranged from 20 to 60. The participants completed measures about their demographic information, tendency towards phubbing, and marital satisfaction. They also completed The Effective Communication Skills Scale, which assesses five basic communication skills: Ego supportive language, active-participative listening, self-recognition/self-disclosure, empathy and I-language.
Ego supportive language involves expressing oneself in a way that positively influences the recipient’s self-perception within interpersonal relationships. Instead of making the listener feel inadequate or deficient, the speaker prioritizes sufficiency and addresses any areas of improvement delicately.
Active-participative listening refers to being fully engaged and attentive in the present moment while communicating with someone else. This skill emphasizes not just hearing the words spoken but also understanding the underlying emotions, intentions, and nuances.
Self-recognition and self-disclosure pertain to an individual’s awareness of their own thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This skill enables individuals to establish deeper connections with those around them by willingly revealing aspects of their own inner world.
Empathy involves understanding another person’s perspective, emotions, and thoughts from their own point of view. Empathetic individuals are able to grasp what someone else is experiencing and can effectively convey their understanding and support.
I-language is a communication skill used to address unwanted behaviors or situations. It involves expressing one’s feelings and reactions without using judgment, criticism, or accusation. Instead of blaming or pointing fingers, individuals focus on how a particular behavior affects them personally.
The researchers found that phubbing behavior significantly predicted lower marital satisfaction. However, when effective communication skills were considered in the analysis, the prediction became less significant. This suggested that effective communication skills were acting as a mediator between phubbing and marital satisfaction. In other words, individuals with better communication skills appear to be better equipped to offset the negative impact of phubbing behavior on marital satisfaction.
“We cannot move away from technology, but we can minimize the damage by acting with self-control,” Parmaksız told PsyPost.
The study provides valuable insights into the importance of effective communication skills among married couples. However, there are limitations to consider, which suggest directions for future research.
For example, the study utilized a cross-sectional research design, which means that the data was collected at a single point in time. This approach doesn’t allow for establishing causal relationships or capturing changes over time. Future studies could benefit from adopting a longitudinal design, which would provide a better understanding of how phubbing behaviors, communication skills, and marital satisfaction evolve and interact over the course of relationships.
“There are many caveats, but the most important is that people take responsibility for their behavior and anticipate the problems that may arise,” Parmaksız said. “Also, phubbing should be seen as a problem that harms the relationship.”
The study, “The mediator role of effective communication skills on the relationship between phubbing tendencies and marriage satisfaction in married individuals“, was authored by Suat Kılıçarslan and İzzet Parmaksız.