New collaborative research from three different departments at West Virginia University finds that students who use social networking sites with their parents are lonelier.

The authors of the article, which appeared in “Cyberpsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking,” are Amy Gentzler, assistant professor of psychology Ann Oberhauser, professor of geography and director of the Center for Women’s Studies David Westerman, assistant professor of communication studies and Danielle Nadorff, a graduate teaching assistant who has recently earned her Ph.D. in psychology.

“As one of the largest populations to use social media, we explore how communication technology is instrumental in both shaping and reflecting social relationships among young people,” Oberhauser said. “Our research analyzes, for example, how social relations such as gender affect this form of communication.”

Their research shows that young adults who communicate with their parents through social networking sites are more likely to be anxiously attached and lonely, and to report a higher level of conflict with their parents. Anxious attachment is characterized by trouble with separation and attempts to keep other people close in order to avoid that separation.

Conversely, it was found that students who communicate more with their parents over the phone were more likely to report satisfying and supportive relationships with them.

In addition, despite the nearly universal use of social networking sites these days, the research also suggested that they are one of the less common methods of communicating with one’s parents.

“Overall, the survey suggests that different forms of communication may have different meanings for college students,” Gentzler said. “However, because that survey was completed two years ago, we are currently investigating whether these patterns are replicated today, which is important given how quickly technology use changes and that being on Facebook with one’s parent may be more normative now.”

“We have not yet looked at the data from the follow-up studies at this point, although I can say that we’re very excited to investigate the topic further.”

For more information, contact Amy Gentzler, assistant professor of psychology, at (304) 293-2001 or



CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Eberly College interim director of communications
304-293-7405, ext. 5251,

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