Date of Award

Summer 8-19-2016

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Cynthia A. Edley

Second Committee Member

Douglas W. Nangle

Third Committee Member

Emily Haigh

Additional Committee Members

Julie Newman Kingery

Elizabeth Allan

Abstract

Friendship experiences play a vital role in the adjustment of adolescents. Late adolescents transitioning to college negotiate the important developmental tasks of both maintaining close hometown friendships and developing new college friendships. Electronic communication has become a prevalent way to quickly and easily communicate, and friendships that incorporate electronic communication with in-person communication are higher in quality (Baiocco et al., 2011). For some adolescents, however, Internet use becomes excessive and problematic (Ha et al., 2007).

The purpose of this investigation was to examine how individuals use different communication technologies with their existing hometown friends and their newer college friends, and how this relates to their friendship quality with both types of friends. The current study also explored how friendship quality relates to students’ college adjustment, whether social anxiety and depressive symptoms moderate the relationship between communication modality and friendship quality, how these psychological factors are related to problematic Internet use, and whether there are gender differences in these associations.

Participants included 469 first-year undergraduate students (mean age 18.20 years, 48% male). Participants completed self-report measures online including measures of social anxiety and depressive symptoms, college adjustment, friendship quality, loneliness, and problematic Internet use.

The current study revealed key findings, including that phone and in-person communication predicted college friendship quality for both genders. For males, texting and social networking site communication predicted hometown and college friendship quality, and for females, these modes of communication predicted college friendship quality. For females, college friendship quality significantly moderated the relationship between depressive symptoms and problematic Internet use, and hometown friendship quality marginally significantly moderated the relationship between social anxiety symptoms and problematic Internet use. For males, hometown friendship quality significantly moderated the relationship between depressive symptoms and problematic Internet use. Also, for the overall sample, college friendship quality marginally significantly moderated the relationship between loneliness and problematic Internet use. These findings indicate that different friendship experiences can have a protective effect in different situations. The results also reveal which types of communication may be most effective in strengthening friendships and facilitating students’ adjustment to college. Study limitations and future directions for research are discussed.

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