RESEARCH CENTRE: How your phone can destroy your relationship


It has become common to see couples on dates engrossed with something on the screens of their smartphones instead of giving each other uninterrupted attention.

According to new research, men and women should reconsider this habit of snubbing partners in favour of mobile phones, because it is destructive to relationships. Known as ‘phubbing’, this habit can cause depression in the partner who is being ignored. This is according to a study by researchers from the US.

“We discovered that when someone perceived that his/her partner was phubbing them, it created conflict and led to lower levels of satisfaction in the relationship,” said Professor James Roberts, the study’s co-author and professor of marketing at Baylor University in the US.

Just under 500 respondents took part in two separate phases of the study. In the first one, 308 adults in romantic relationships were asked to identify actions that amounted to phubbing on a nine-item scale.

Among the common smartphone-related phubbing behaviours included placing your phone where you can see it when you are with your partner, keeping your phone in your hand while you are with

your partner, looking at your phone regularly while talking to your partner and checking your phone when there is a lull in conversation. In the second phase that included 145 respondents, the

researchers measured phubbing among dating couples.

They examined conflicts that arose from mobile phone use, the level of satisfaction in the relationship, depression and interpersonal attachment styles. Forty-three per cent of the respondents said they had been phubbed by their partners, while 36 per cent said that being phubbed made them feel depressed. Twenty-two per cent of the respondents said that being phubbed resulted in increased conflict in their relationships.

“Momentary distractions by one’s cellphone during time spent with a significant other likely lowers the significant other’s satisfaction with the relationship, and could lead to enhanced feelings of depression and lower well-being of that individual,” Meredith David, a professor and one of the researchers, said.

The study titled ‘My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners’, was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.