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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Attachment to mobile phones : an examination of university students’ mobile phone use within an attachment theory framework Parent, Natasha


With the increasingly ubiquitous use of mobile phones in modern culture, particularly among university students, recent research has focused on the behaviours, characteristics, and effects of mobile phone use, with the evaluation of addictive features largely dominating work in this area. Given the lack of consensus regarding the etiology and standard measure of this addiction model, the objective of this study was to explore the possibility of an alternative framework for understanding university students’ relationships with their mobile phones (i.e., that of attachment theory rather than addiction). To this end, data was collected from 403 undergraduate participants (between the ages of 18-25, who owned a smartphone with at least one active social media account) recruited from two large Canadian universities. Participants responded to an online questionnaire including measures of sociodemographic information (e.g., gender, ethnicity, mobile phone use), adult attachment dimensions, mobile phone attachment, problematic mobile phone use, and their device’s perceived relationship-facilitating function. Findings indicated that, overall, participants were forming some degree of attachment to their mobile phones, and that this was particularly true for those higher in attachment anxiety. Further, attachment anxiety was found to be related to characteristics of problematic mobile phone use, and this relationship was mediated by features of mobile phone attachment. Thus, results from this study supported the use of an attachment theory framework for understanding what has typically been conceptualized as mobile phone addiction (i.e., there was an indirect relationship between attachment anxiety and problematic mobile phone use through participants’ attachments to their mobile phones). As the first study to examine the relationship between mobile phone attachment and problematic mobile phone use, findings from this work have important implications for understanding university students’ relationships with their mobile phones, while offering insight into some of the alarming behaviours that have emerged alongside increasing mobile phone use.

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