The development of digital media over the last 20 years has led to seismic changes within many aspects of daily life. This includes numerous facets of family relationships that have not escaped the digital revolution of the last two decades. From the very early stages of initiating relationships to types of post-break-up behaviors, the Internet has the potential to play an influential role in all areas of family and particularly couple relationships. This paper examines how ICTs (“information and communication technology”) can shape such relationships. The impact on the various stages of relationships is systematized (relationship development, couple and family formation, separation) with a special focus on intergenerational opportunities and conflicts associated with modern media usage. Against the background of psychological and media communication theories and psychotherapeutic approaches as well as empirical findings the following topics are considered: 1. Initiation of relationships through ICTs (e.g. meet new partners through online dating); 2. Impact of digital media on relationship development and existing partnerships (e.g. new opportunities and internet-related challenges that have to be faced by couples) 3. Influence of ICTs on separations (e.g. online mediation, getting divorced online). In summary, the role of ICTs in new, existing and separated partnerships and families is multifaceted. An outlook on further developments as well as research desiderata is given.
Eichenberg, C., Huss, J. & Küsel, C. (2017). From online dating to online divorce: An overview of couple and family relationships shaped though digital media. Contemporary Family Therapy, 39, 249–260.