Parental Invasive and Children's Defensive Behaviors at Home and Away at College


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Ledbetter, A., Heiss, S.#, Sibal, K.#, Lev, E. #, Battle-Fisher, M. #, & Shubert, N.#.(April
2010). Parental Invasive and Children's Defensive Behaviors at Home and Away at
College: Mediated Communication and Privacy Boundary Management.
Communication Studies. 61:2, 184 – 204.

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Parental Invasive and Children's Defensive Behaviors at Home and Away at College

  1. 1. This article was downloaded by: [Wright State University]On: 13 April 2011Access details: Access Details: [subscription number 930579649]Publisher RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Communication Studies Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Parental Invasive and Childrens Defensive Behaviors at Home and Away at College: Mediated Communication and Privacy Boundary Management Andrew M. Ledbettera; Sarah Heissa; Kenny Sibala; Eimi Levb; Michele Battle-Fisherc; Natalie Shuberta a School of Communication Studies, Ohio University, b Department of Communication and the Department of Health Promotion, School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University, Israel c Public Health at Ohio State University, Online publication date: 19 April 2010To cite this Article Ledbetter, Andrew M. , Heiss, Sarah , Sibal, Kenny , Lev, Eimi , Battle-Fisher, Michele and Shubert,Natalie(2010) Parental Invasive and Childrens Defensive Behaviors at Home and Away at College: MediatedCommunication and Privacy Boundary Management, Communication Studies, 61: 2, 184 — 204To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/10510971003603960URL: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
  2. 2. Communication Studies Vol. 61, No. 2, April–June 2010, pp. 184–204 Parental Invasive and Children’s Defensive Behaviors at Home and Away at College: Mediated Communication and Privacy Boundary ManagementDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 Andrew M. Ledbetter, Sarah Heiss, Kenny Sibal, Eimi Lev, Michele Battle-Fisher, & Natalie Shubert Following recent discussion of close parent-undergraduate contact via mediated communication, this manuscript reports an empirical study of parental invasive beha- viors and children’s defensive behaviors. Results reveal patterns of parent=child boundary management via mediated communication, including decreased frequency of invasive= defensive behaviors than in a similar study by Petronio (1994). Telephone invasion at home was associated with invasions when away at college. Discussion of results considers how technology choices might alter the character of parent-child boundary management. Keywords: Boundary Management; Mediated Communication; Parent-Child Communication Andrew M. Ledbetter (PhD, University of Kansas, 2007) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University. Sarah Heiss (MA, Ohio University, 2007) and Kenny Sibal (MA, Western Kentucky University, 2006) are doctoral students in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University. Eimi Lev (PhD, Ohio University, 2009) is a lecturer in the Department of Communication and the Department of Health Promotion in the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Michele Battle-Fisher (MPH, Ohio State University, 2002) is a doctoral student in Public Health at Ohio State University. Natalie Shubert (MA, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, 2006) is a doctoral student in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University. Correspondence to: Andrew M. Ledbetter, Ohio Univer- sity School of Communication Studies, 43 West Union St., Lasher Hall 206, Athens, OH 45701, U.S.A. E-mail: ISSN 1051-0974 (print)/ISSN 1745-1035 (online) # 2010 Central States Communication Association DOI: 10.1080/10510971003603960
  3. 3. Parental Invasive Behaviors 185 Among the myriad types of distance-related relational transitions, perhaps few are so developmentally consequential as when children leave the parental home. For those who relocate to a residential college, this move frequently renegotiates the level of independence within the parent-child relationship yet also stimulates role ambiguity regarding whether sons and daughters are considered children or adults (Arnett, 1994). The communicative behavior of parents and children during this renegotia- tion has long been a subject of research attention (Cooney, 2000; Golish, 2000; Greene, & Boxer, 1986; Hoffman, 1984; Noller, 1995; Parke & Sawin, 1979; Pecchioni, Wright, & Nussbaum, 2005). Moreover, the transition from childhood to adulthood is often associated with the establishment of different communication patterns that arise from the changing roles of parents and children, where the child begins to learn about important problem-solving and decision-making techniques (Noller, 1995). Recently, a growing chorus of university administrators and practitioners questionDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 whether new communication technologies, such as mobile phone and Internet-based communication, prevent undergraduate students from learning life skills important for well-being in adulthood (Merriman, 2007). This concern highlights parental tech- nology use to monitor children in a manner that unnecessarily invades the under- graduate’s privacy. This manuscript reports an investigation that refines and extends Petronio’s (1994) typology of invasive=defensive behaviors in light of recent technological advances (Mayer, 2003). After inductively deriving a typology via qualitative thematic analysis, we employed content analysis to compare the relative frequency of such behaviors when students are at home and away at college. As such, our hope is that the investigation holds promise for advancing the theoretical map of invasive and defensive behaviors, and that the investigation offers practical suggestions for under- graduates, their parents, and university officials who communicate with them. Theoretical Background Privacy Management in the Parent-Child Relationship Petronio’s (2002) communication privacy management theory (CPM) is a useful framework for understanding the communicative management of privacy between parents and their children. Building from Altman and Taylor’s (1973) work in social penetration theory, Petronio (2002) reframes self-disclosure research ‘‘by arguing that disclosure is meaningful only in relationship to privacy’’ (Petronio, 2002, p. 14). Petronio (2002) casts CPM as a dialectical theory; though CPM’s dialectical approach is not fully compatible with that of Baxter and Montgomery’s (1996) theory of relational dialectics, Petronio (2002) nevertheless highlights the simultaneous desire for disclosure and privacy in the process of relational maintenance (whereas early relational maintenance research focused almost exclusively on disclosure). What is of theoretical and practical interest, then, is explaining how individuals communi- cate in ways that coordinate the concealing and revealing of private information. Toward this end, CPM uses a boundary metaphor to explain how people think about
  4. 4. 186 A. M. Ledbetter et al. their private information: ‘‘In this theory, privacy is defined as the feeling that one has the right to own private information, either personally or collectively; conse- quently, boundaries mark ownership lines for individuals’’ (Petronio, 2002, p. 6). To share private information is to admit the recipient inside the boundary, such that boundary coordination becomes the responsibility of both people. Petronio (2002) explains this as a form of information ownership, such that ‘‘when we are told private information by others, we enter into a contract of responsibility to be co-owners of the information’’ (Petronio, 2002, p. 10). Attendant with such co-ownership are rules regarding what constitutes appropri- ate disclosure of information to third parties. Yet Petronio (2002) argues that privacy rules differ considerably across individuals, with privacy rules developed via mechan- isms ‘‘such as cultural expectations, gender, motivation, context of the situation, and risk-benefit ratio’’ (Petronio, 2002, p. 23). For each person, over time ‘‘rules canDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 become routinized’’ such that they function as ‘‘a stable factor in guiding privacy judgments’’ (p. 27). Among the several mechanisms that people learn privacy rule orientations, Petronio (2002) identifies the family as a particularly influential source. More specifically, Petronio (2002) notes that different families may possess different privacy rule orientations: Families often develop privacy rule orientations over time. Family members might construct all their rules to reflect their value of openness and reinforce this orien- tation for all family members. Thus, each member is expected to tell any problems or issues he or she faces to other family members. On the other hand, other families might have restricted orientation rules about disclosure and be more private. For these families, the members construct rules that limit the disclosure to one another, insisting that each member should solve his or her own problems without talking about them to other family members. (Petronio, 2002, pp. 79–80) Children’s privacy rules are not static but rather develop considerably across the course of childhood. Petronio (2002) especially notes that adolescence necessarily involves fluctuation of privacy boundaries (with attendant boundary renegotiation), as the adolescent ‘‘[develops] a separate identity apart from his or her family’’ (p. 74). The formation of this separate identity may include adoption of new privacy rules: As children reach a point where they are considered independent, they may begin to form an individual set of criteria or rules for privacy regulation over information that is considered personally private. These rules may differ from family privacy orientations. . . . The other family members may see this divergence from a general orientation to private information as a challenge. (Petronio, 2002, p. 165) In other words, a young adult child’s formation of new privacy rules may generate boundary turbulence, or events where ‘‘[boundary] coordination does not . . . function in a synchronized way’’ (Petronio, 2002, p. 12). When such turbulence occurs, Petronio (2002) predicts that ‘‘individuals attempt to correct the problem and integrate new information into the rule system so that adjustments may be made to achieve coordination’’ (Petronio, 2002, p. 33). A chief goal of this investigation
  5. 5. Parental Invasive Behaviors 187 is to identify both parental invasive behaviors that generate boundary turbulence and children’s defensive behaviors that attempt to restore stable privacy boundaries. Moreover, though Petronio (2002) advances a deep and coherent theory of privacy management, she also acknowledges the theory’s relative youth, locating it in a period of ‘‘middlescence,’’ or ‘‘stage of theory building where much is in place and many of the conceptual blocks are identified, yet the way they fit together shift and change rendering the connections temporarily ambiguous’’ (Petronio, 2004, p. 200). Though a considerable body of empirical research employs CPM (e.g., Afifi, Olson, & Armstrong, 2005), such research generally uses the theory as an explanatory mech- anism for particular communication phenomena rather than subjecting the theory’s propositions to formal empirical test. Though this manuscript does not advance formal quantitative measures ultimately necessary for such tests, a secondary goal is for these results to inform future measure development for heuristic theoreticalDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 and methodological advancement. Parental Invasive Behaviors and New Communication Technology Because expectations regarding children’s privacy change throughout the course of child development (McKenney, 1998; Parke & Sawin, 1979; Petronio, 2002), privacy invasions may occur frequently within parent-child relationships. To date, the most comprehensive assessment of parental invasive behaviors is Petronio’s (1994) series of four empirical studies examining such behaviors and subsequent children’s defensive behaviors designed to restore the violated privacy boundary. Petronio (1994) notes that the college years are a time when parental expectations of their children’s privacy can be particularly unclear. Although undergraduates view their college years as a time of increasing independence, ‘‘parents may contradict these expectations by invading the children’s privacy boundaries’’ when the child returns home or when away at college (Petronio, 1994, p. 244). Therefore, parental invasive behaviors ‘‘may send a message to college-aged children that indicates the reluctance of parents to let go’’ (p. 245). Beyond identifying several discrete parental invasive and children’s defensive beha- viors, Petronio (1994) differentiates these regarding their level of directness (for par- ental invasive behaviors, direct and subversive invasions; for children’s defensive behaviors, evasive and confrontational strategies). Without devaluing the utility of this approach, recent concerns of university administrators (Merriman, 2007; White, 2005), along with theoretical developments in the field of online communication (Wellman et al., 2003), suggest that the time is ripe to revisit Petronio’s (1994) typology with new technological developments, which can help family members gather information about each other and increase the complexities surrounding priv- acy management, in mind (Caughlin & Petronio, 2004). Scholars note that new tech- nology facilitates privacy invasions via the rapid and recordable nature of such communication (e.g., Spears & Lea, 1994). Recent evidence, moreover, suggests that new communication technologies create new opportunities for boundary violations and coordination between parents and children (see Caughlin & Petronio, 2004).
  6. 6. 188 A. M. Ledbetter et al. Ling and Yttri (2002), for instance, note that the individualized nature of mobile phones (especially as contrasted with landline phones) facilitates teenage communi- cation outside the purview of parents. Thus, mobile phones enable the child to pre- vent parents from achieving co-ownership of their private information. Yet, Ling and Yttri (2002) further note that mobile phones provide parents with more opportu- nities to violate children’s boundaries by enabling them to call and, perhaps, to exert control over their child at any time regardless of the child’s location. Ling and Yttri’s ` findings illuminate the dual nature of the mobile phone vis-a-vis children’s boundary coordination: Such technology permits greater boundary control in some respects but simultaneously facilitates boundary turbulence. Such privacy management patterns are not unique to mobile phones but transcend various new technologies (e.g., instant messenger, Boneva et al., 2006; social network- ing sites; Lenhart & Madden, 2007). Mayer (2003) argues that technological surveil-Downloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 lance within the family ‘‘is likely to be motivated by concern over another’s safety’’ (p. 435); thus, such behavior may pit one family member’s need for privacy against another family member’s need for information. These tensions can be especially sali- ent during college, as the degree of children’s independence is frequently a locus of parent-child conflict (Renk et al., 2006). Overall, then, the widespread use of new communication technology strongly suggests revisiting Petronio’s (1994) typology. Thus, we addressed the following research questions: RQ1: In what ways do parents use communication technologies to engage in invasive behaviors toward their young adult children? RQ2: In what ways do young adult children use communication technologies to defend themselves against parental invasive behaviors? RQ3: What are the relative frequencies of different types of parental invasive behaviors? RQ4: What are the relative frequencies of different types of young adult children’s defensive actions? Invasive/Defensive Behaviors and Distance Thus far, we have noted that developmental changes, coupled with the ease of access facilitated by new communication technologies, may generate boundary turbulence. For college students who live away from home, the geographical distance from parents may also necessitate boundary renegotiation (Cooney, 2000). As Larose and Boivin (1998) note, the transition to college introduces unique stressors because distance from parents necessitates adoption of new life patterns: ‘‘In a short period of time, adolescents may leave home, move into an apartment or dormitory without adult supervision, learn to manage their own affairs, and assume adult responsibil- ities’’ (p. 3). Likewise, Flanagan, Schulenberg, and Fuligni (1993), in an investigation of college residential status, note the potential for tension when students return home to visit: ‘‘Students who resided at college said they had more conflict with their par- ents during semester breaks when they lived at home’’ (p. 183). One might expect, then, that distance strongly influences the creation and maintenance of privacy
  7. 7. Parental Invasive Behaviors 189 boundaries within the parent-child relationship. Thus, we addressed the following research questions targeted at understanding how parental invasive and children’s defensive behaviors at home might be associated with such behaviors when away at college, as well as the associations among invasions and defenses in both contexts: RQ5: Are parental invasive behaviors at home associated with their invasive behaviors when away at college? RQ6: Are children’s defensive behaviors at home associated with their defensive behaviors when away at college? RQ7: What children’s defensive behaviors are associated with parental invasive behaviors when at home? RQ8: What children’s defensive behaviors are associated with parental invasive behaviors when away at college? MethodDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 Participants The sample consisted of 455 participants recruited from communication studies courses at a large Midwestern university. Participants received a minimal amount of extra or course credit (less than 2% of course grade) for their participation. Most participants were female (n ¼ 271; 59.6%) and predominantly reported a white= Caucasian ethnic identity (n ¼ 395; 86.8%), with ages ranging from 18 to 39 years (M ¼ 20.4, SD ¼ 2.0). Procedures Participants completed an online survey, including a series of four open-ended ques- tions derived from Petronio’s (1994) previous research on parental invasive behaviors and the defensive behaviors of undergraduates. As one goal of this study was to ident- ify the role of mediated communication technologies in such invasive and defensive behaviors, these four questions addressed such behaviors when at home and when away at college (i.e., ‘‘In what ways do=does your parent=s invade your privacy when you are [away at college = at home]?’’; ‘‘In what ways do you try to defend against these privacy invasions when you are [away at college = at home]?’’). If the partici- pant resided at home while attending college, he or she was asked to simply indicate this for the questions addressing behaviors that occurred when at college (n ¼ 24; 5.3%); data for such participants were removed from all analyses examining beha- viors occurring while away at college. Thematic analysis Using Petronio’s (1994) previous typology and recent concerns about mediated invasions (e.g., Merriman, 2007) as sensitizing theoretical concepts, two research team members (a male faculty member and a female graduate student) inductively derived two separate typologies via thematic analysis (Owen, 1984). First, both team
  8. 8. 190 A. M. Ledbetter et al. members separately read the entire data set and developed an initial list of themes occurring in the data. Owen’s criteria of repetition (i.e., same words) and recurrence (i.e., same meanings) as well as theoretical coherence of the thematic list guided this phase of analysis. Next, both team members compared their list of themes. Both lists were similar and differences were resolved through discussion. The final typology consisted of four supercategories of invasive (Table 1) and defensive (Table 2) behaviors, with additional subcategories further delineating specific subtypes. Table 1 Typology of Parental Invasive Behaviors Invasion Type Home Frequency Spatial Invasions Enter a room unannounced ‘‘She goes in my room without a thought;’’ ‘‘Walk into roomDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 without knocking.’’ Search personal belongings ‘‘Searching my wallet if they could find anything they forbid;’’ ‘‘Look through my pockets when they do my laundry.’’ Request to come ‘‘[They] often want me to come home and spend time with them;’’ home to visit ‘‘They constantly are trying to get me to come home . . .’’ Eavesdrop on conversations ‘‘Listening to me talk with friends when we are at the house;’’ ‘‘They interrupt [sic] me when my friends are over.’’ Telephone Invasions Investigate calling behavior ‘‘Look through my phone;’’ ‘‘They . . . check my phone bill.’’ Unwelcome phone calls ‘‘They tend to always worry about where I am and call a lot;’’ ‘‘They call daily to bug me about what I did today and what I am going to do.’’ Eavesdrop on telephone ‘‘Listen when on the phone;’’ ‘‘She’ll listen to me talking on the conversations phone. . . . She’ll turn the TV down.’’ Computer Invasions Reading blogs=social ‘‘Get on Facebook;’’ ‘‘My mom would sometimes try to read my networking sites online blog.’’ Checking online accounts ‘‘Check grades online;’’ ‘‘Checking . . . online bank account.’’ Unwelcome online ‘‘They send me way too many emails;’’ ‘‘My dad emails me right communication right [sic] wing spam.’’ Reading private online ‘‘When I am using the computer, they come behind me and read communication over my shoulder for a few minutes;’’ ‘‘My dad reads the instant messages I write.’’ Verbal Invasions Asking personal questions ‘‘They won’t leave me alone, constantly are asking me questions I don’t feel like answering;’’ ‘‘They ask a lot of questions that are not any of their business.’’ Making demands ‘‘They try and tell me what I should and should not do;’’ ‘‘Want me to get up early on the weekends and I am not allowed to curse around them.’’
  9. 9. Parental Invasive Behaviors 191 Table 2 Typology of Children’s Defensive Behaviors Invasion Type Home Frequency Spatial Defenses Avoid parental home ‘‘Tried to get out of the house fast, or not tell them where I was going;’’ ‘‘Not coming home after getting off of work, and going to meet up with friends.’’ Lock=close bedroom= ‘‘I just shut my door;’’ ‘‘I stayed in my room for the most part bathroom doors while they stayed upstairs.’’ Hide personal belongings ‘‘Have important stuff shipped to my apartment;’’ ‘‘As long as I kept what they didn’t need to know out of sight (cigerrettes [sic], lighters), we didn’t have a problem.’’ Telephone Defenses Conceal phone from parents ‘‘Try to keep my phone on me at all times;’’ ‘‘Hide my cell.’’Downloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 Do not respond to ‘‘Sometimes I don’t answer the phone when they are calling if I parental phone calls am not home;’’ ‘‘Don’t answer . . . or hang up.’’ Make phone calls outside the ‘‘Talk on the phone outside;’’ ‘‘Talk on the phone away from parental home=in secret everyone.’’ Computer Defenses Conceal online ‘‘Use the computer when no one else is in the room;’’ ‘‘Close IMs communication and delete emails.’’ Filter blog=social network ‘‘I try to be descreet [sic] in how things are displayed on site information [Facebook].’’ Do not respond to parental ‘‘I ignore the emails.’’ online communication Verbal Defenses Inflict emotional distress ‘‘I give them the silent treatment for awhile;’’ ‘‘Raise my voice, talk back.’’ Make direct request to ‘‘I have sat them down and explained how it bothers me;’’ ‘‘I ask stop invasion her not to open mail directed to me.’’ Deception ‘‘I just tell her the small stuff and leave out everything I don’t want her to know;’’ ‘‘Tell them what they want to hear, even if it’s not the truth.’’ Tables 1 and 2 contain exemplars of each subcategory, and the results section (below) further addresses the nature of the supercategories. Content analysis Following typology development, the male faculty member introduced the typology to two other team members (one male graduate student and one female graduate student) who were not involved in typology construction. A small amount of the data (10%) was randomly selected and both team members separately coded each
  10. 10. 192 A. M. Ledbetter et al. response for the presence of each of the subcategories identified in the initial typology. The coders also assessed whether the response described no invasive or defensive behaviors. A participant’s response was the unit of analysis. After this prac- tice coding, the coders shared their impressions of the data to ensure consistency in further coding. The coders resolved irregularities through discussion. The coders then discarded the practice coding and separately coded all participant responses (i.e., the entire data set, including those coded in the practice coding) into the coding scheme constructed by the two initial team members. After both team members coded the entire data set, inspection of the data revealed that most subcategories contained very few items. Given the study’s overarching goal of examining invasive and defensive behaviors across media conditions, the research team decided to collapse all forms of invasive and defensive behaviors into the four respective supercategories for subsequent quantitative analyses. Cohen’s kappaDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 revealed high reliability between coders for all supercategories except phone invasions at college and phone defenses at home. After review of discrepant cases at a meeting of both coders and the principal investigator, a small number of cases were recoded, which increased all Cohen’s kappa indices of intercoder agreement to acceptable values (for all supercategories, .74 j 1.00). For all variables except for those indi- cating no invasive behaviors and no defensive behaviors, remaining disagreements in the data set were handled by a decision rule treating a case as an instance of a super- category of behavior if either coder marked it as such. Conversely, we treated each case as containing no invasions and=or defenses only if both coders agreed this was the case. In light of the high frequency of invasive=defensive behaviors reported in Petronio (1994), these decision rules permitted us to obtain a conservative esti- mate of the degree to which participants reported an absence of invasive=defensive behaviors and, simultaneously, created an orthogonal relationship between the absence variables (see ‘‘Content analysis’’ section above) and supercategory variables. Although not included in analyses, a separate coding category indicated ‘‘other’’ behavior types not specified in the typology. For invasive behaviors, a trivial number of cases qualified as ‘‘other’’ for both the home and away contexts, with most involv- ing the use of another person to investigate the student (e.g., ‘‘ask my friends and brother’s friends about me’’). A similarly small number of ‘‘other’’ cases of defensive behaviors included use of silence (e.g., ‘‘just walk out and don’t say anything’’) and responses idiosyncratic to the topic of a particular invasion (e.g., ‘‘work more so they cannot bug me about money’’). Results Parental Invasive Behaviors The first research question addressed how parents invade their young adult children’s privacy. In light of reports of parental technology use aimed at invading their chil- dren’s privacy (e.g., Merriman, 2007), one goal of the current project was to identify differences in invasive behaviors across different media types. Identification of
  11. 11. Parental Invasive Behaviors 193 thematic categories proceeded through this conceptual=pragmatic lens (see Table 1). The first supercategory, spatial invasions, included behaviors involving spatial copre- sence. Such behaviors included direct attempts at face-to-face interaction, such as eavesdropping on a conversation or requesting that the child return home for a visit. Other behaviors invaded the child’s space without the child present, such as looking through pockets in clothing or entering the child’s room while he or she was away from home. The second supercategory included behaviors with the telephone as the locus and was thus labeled telephone-based invasions. Behaviors in this supercate- gory included parents making unwelcome phone calls, eavesdropping on the content of phone conversations, and checking up on children’s calling activity (e.g., by read- ing the phone bill or scrolling through the phone’s call logs). The third supercategory, computer-based invasions, included such behaviors as reading private online conversa- tions and checking up on children via online accounts. The fourth supercategory, ver-Downloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 bal invasions, focused on communicative behavior without regard for the medium via which it occurs. The two types of behaviors in this supercategory were asking personal questions and making demands. Children’s Defensive Behaviors The second research question concerned the behaviors children use to defend against their parents’ invasive behaviors. Our final typology of children’s defensive behaviors (see Table 2) contains four supercategories mirroring those for parental invasive behaviors. Spatial defenses involved avoiding the parents’ house, hiding personal belongings, and meeting friends outside of the home. Telephone-based defenses com- prised concealing the phone (e.g., keeping the phone on one’s person at all times), deliberately failing to respond to parents’ phone calls, and taking measures to prevent parental eavesdropping on phone conversations. Likewise, computer-based defenses consisted of concealing online conversations (e.g., by changing passwords, deleting emails, or closing open windows when a parent enters the room) and ignoring par- ents’ emails. Finally, verbal defenses focused on communicative behaviors without regard to medium, including attempting to inflict emotional distress on the parents (e.g., by making them feel guilty), engaging in deception, and directly requesting that parents cease their invasive behavior. Associations among Invasive and Defensive Behaviors The third and fourth research questions concerned the relative frequency of invasive and defensive behaviors. Table 3 shows the number and proportion of items fitting each supercategory when home and away at college. Whether involving invasive or defensive behaviors, spatial and verbal types were particularly common, with phone and online behaviors occurring less frequently. Chi-square tests (see Table 3) indi- cated that both spatial and verbal invasions occurred significantly more frequently when at home, whereas the relative frequencies of phone and online invasions did
  12. 12. 194 A. M. Ledbetter et al. Table 3 Frequencies of Parental Invasive Behaviors at Home and Away at College Behavior Type Home Frequency (n ¼ 455) Away Frequency (n ¼ 431) v2(1) Residuala Invasions Spatial Invasion 132 (29.0%) 50 (11.0%) 63.38ÃÃ À75 Phone Invasion 49 (10.8%) 44 (9.7%) 0.10 À2 Online Invasion 33 (7.3%) 26 (5.7%) 0.87 À5 Verbal Invasion 134 (29.5%) 84 (18.5%) 20.64ÃÃ À43 No Invasion 171 (37.6%) 270 (59.3%) 69.79ÃÃ þ84 Defenses Spatial Defense 100 (22.0%) 18 (4.0%) 80.06ÃÃ À77 Phone Defense 17 (3.7%) 30 (6.6%) 12.72ÃÃ þ14 Online Defense 17 (3.7%) 8 (1.8%) 4.15Ã À8 Verbal Defense 155 (34.1%) 90 (19.8%) 33.54ÃÃ À57Downloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 No Defense 186 (40.9%) 286 (62.9%) 116.20ÃÃ À110 Note. Column totals do not equal 100% because participants could mention more than one type of invasive behavior. a Negative residuals indicate that the supercategory occurred less frequently when away at college than when home. Likewise, positive residuals indicate the supercategory occurred more frequently at college than at home. Ã p < .05. ÃÃ p < .01. not differ significantly. Overall, participants reported significantly more invasions at home than when at college. Defensive behaviors showed a similar trend, with the exception of mediated invasions. Phone defenses occurred more frequently when away at college, and online defenses occurred slightly less frequently. Perhaps most strikingly, participants reported much fewer instances of invasive behaviors than Petronio (1994) obtained using a similar open-ended survey methodology. Only 3% of Petronio’s (1994) sample reported no parental invasive behaviors; a chi-square test using this threshold reveals that participants in the present study reported signifi- cantly fewer invasions both when home, v2(1) ¼ 1816.54, p < .01, and when away at college, v2(1) ¼ 4306.96, p < .01. The fifth research question addressed the extent to which parental invasive behaviors at home are associated with such behaviors when the children are away at college. The Phi correlation coefficient indicates strength of association between dichotomous variables (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003); Table 4 shows the Phi correlation coefficients among these behaviors. Examination of the diagonal of the correlation matrix suggests that parents continue to enact invasive behaviors via the same media whether children are away at college or at home. Additionally, both verbal and phone invasions at home were especially associated with invasions when away at college. Specifically, parents who engage in verbal invasions at home were more likely to engage in both verbal and phone-based invasions when their chil- dren are away at college, yet less likely to engage in spatial or online-based invasions. However, parents who engage in phone invasions at home were more likely to engage in every type of invasion when away at college.
  13. 13. Parental Invasive Behaviors 195 Table 4 Phi Correlations Assessing Whether Behaviors at Home are Associated with Behaviors When Away at College Variables Spatial-Away Phone-Away Online-Away Verbal-Away None-Away Parental Invasions 1. Spatial Invasion-Home .19ÃÃ .01 .08 À.08 À.07 2. Phone Invasion-Home .11Ã .16ÃÃ .20ÃÃ .10Ã À.19ÃÃ 3. Online Invasion-Home À.01 > À.01 .28ÃÃ <.01 À.02 4. Verbal Invasion-Home À.11Ã .18ÃÃ À.12Ã .37ÃÃ À.27ÃÃ 5. No Invasion-Home À.09 À.14ÃÃ À.06 À.22ÃÃ .30ÃÃ Children’s Defenses 1. Spatial Defense-Home .15ÃÃ .04 .15 À.12Ã À.01 2. Phone Defense-Home .15ÃÃ À.05 À.03 > À.01 À.05 3. Online Defense-Home .09 À.05 .16ÃÃ À.07 <.01Downloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 4. Verbal Defense-Home > À.01 .05 À.06 .33ÃÃ À.26ÃÃ 5. No Defense-Home À.13ÃÃ À.08 À.01 .20ÃÃ .27ÃÃ Note. The upper block presents Phi correlation coefficients between parental invasive behaviors at home and parental invasive behaviors when away at college. The lower block presents Phi correlation coefficients between children’s defensive behaviors at home and children’s defensive behaviors when away at college. Ã p < .05. ÃÃ p < .01. Relatedly, the sixth research question asked whether children’s defensive behaviors at home predict such behaviors when away at college. As with invasive behaviors, examination of the Phi correlation coefficients among these variables (see Table 4) suggests that children tend to enact defensive behaviors across the same media when away at college as they do at home. Phone defense was an exception to this trend and was significantly associated instead with spatial defense at college. Spatial defenses at home were associated with verbal defense when away. Those who reported engaging in no defensive behaviors at home were less likely to engage in spatial defense and more likely to engage in verbal defense when at college. The seventh and eighth research questions addressed the relationship between par- ental invasive behaviors and children’s defensive behaviors when at home and away at college, respectively. Table 5 shows Phi correlation coefficients for the associations among these behaviors. Evidence for the principle of media reciprocation, akin to patterns observed in the data pertaining to the fifth and sixth research questions, con- tinued to emerge here, such that invasive behaviors across a particular medium are associated with defensive behaviors across the same medium. Several other significant associations emerged beyond this trend. Spatial invasive behaviors correlated posi- tively with verbal defense when at home and away at college, although such invasive behaviors at college were also inversely associated with telephone defense. Telephone invasive behaviors were associated with a variety of defenses, including spatial and phone defenses at home and verbal defensive behaviors when away. Curiously, when at home, online invasions were associated with an absence of defensive behaviors
  14. 14. 196 A. M. Ledbetter et al. Table 5 Phi Correlations Comparing Invasive=Defensive Patterns at Home and When Away at College Variables Spatial Defense Phone Defense Online Defense Verbal Defense No Defense At Home 1. Spatial Invasion .32ÃÃ À.05 .03 .13ÃÃ À.30ÃÃ 2. Phone Invasion .12ÃÃ .38ÃÃ .12Ã .08 À.25ÃÃ 3. Online Invasion .18ÃÃ .08 .44ÃÃ À.06 .13ÃÃ 4. Verbal Invasion À.06 À.03 À.10Ã .34ÃÃ À.23ÃÃ 5. No Invasion À.24ÃÃ À.06 À.08 À.40ÃÃ .55ÃÃ Away at College 1. Spatial Invasion .47ÃÃ À.10Ã À.05 .13ÃÃ À.25ÃÃ 2. Phone Invasion À.07 .51ÃÃ À.05 .11Ã .29ÃÃ 3. Online Invasion >.01 À.03 .47ÃÃ .09 À.17ÃÃDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 4. Verbal Invasion À.07 .07 À.02 .54ÃÃ À.44ÃÃ 5. No Invasion À.19ÃÃ À.22ÃÃ À.16ÃÃ À.47ÃÃ .62ÃÃ Note. The upper block presents Phi correlation coefficients between parental invasive behaviors and children’s defensive behaviors when at home. The lower block presents Phi correlation coefficients between such behaviors when away at college. Ã p < .05. ÃÃ p < .01. and positively associated with spatial defense. Verbal invasions at home were inver- sely associated with online defenses. Discussion In light of accounts of increasing parental technological intrusion (Merriman, 2007), the chief goal of this investigation was to refine Petronio’s (1994) typology of parental invasive and children’s defensive behaviors in accounting for such mediated inva- sions. Results not only provided a basis for such a revised typology but also identified the frequency and associations among such behaviors. Among the potential implica- tions of these findings, this discussion focuses chiefly on differences from Petronio’s (1994) results (i.e., both in the reported frequency of invasions and composition of the typology), differences in parental invasive behaviors at home versus when children are away at college, and children’s defensive responses to parental invasions. We conclude by considering practical applications for students, parents, and university officials. Differences from Petronio’s (1994) Findings The first four research questions addressed the nature and frequency of invasive and defensive behaviors in parent=undergraduate relationships. That parental invasive and children’s defensive behaviors were relatively rare was perhaps the most striking, and unexpected, finding of this investigation. Although most participants identified
  15. 15. Parental Invasive Behaviors 197 at least one parental invasive behavior that occurred when at home, almost 60% reported no invasive behaviors when away at college. The frequency of children’s defensive behaviors showed a similar pattern. This relative rarity contrasts with popu- lar press concern about mediated privacy invasions (Jayson, 2007). The results differ even more sharply from Petronio’s (1994). In her sample, ‘‘only 3% of the respon- dents did not identify a type of invasion, suggesting that parental invasion for these college children was not unusual’’ (p. 246). Of course, it is worth considering whether methodological differences produced this discrepancy. We attempted to pattern this study closely after Petronio’s (1994); however, we must concede that the paucity of methodological information in her report leaves open the possibility of methodolo- gical artifacts. Even in light of that possibility, the magnitude of the obtained differ- ence seems to offer compelling evidence of a true change in the population parameter over the past two decades.Downloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 One could conclude, then, that management of parent-child privacy produces less boundary turbulence for undergraduates today than approximately 20 years ago. The formal propositions of CPM suggest at least two possibilities for explaining this finding in light of technological development. First, the decrease in frequency of invasive behaviors may signal a shift in parental communication patterns and, perhaps, attitudes toward their college-aged children. In other words, it is possible that parents of current undergraduates are less prone, say, to search through their children’s rooms than were parents of the previous generation. CPM helps explain why this may be so. Petronio (2002) argues that changing privacy rule orientations may generate boundary turbulence when a child ‘‘[develops] a separate identity apart from his or her family’’ (p. 74). Prior to recent proliferation of newer communication technologies, families shared many communication channels in common. For example, all family members shared use of the house’s single landline phone and access to the same postal mailbox. In such a family communicative environment, parents may have been used to some oversight of adolescent communication behavior, and thus the formation of a separate communicative identity did not occur until leaving home (for some, to college). In the language of CPM, privacy rule management in the case of separate, individualized communication channels may not have been routinized during the college years. But in the current media environment, many adolescents possess private cell phones and online technology (e.g., personal email addresses and social network site accounts) well prior to college; Wellman et al. (2003) refer to this phenomenon as networked indi- vidualism, and Ling and Yttri (2002) document how adolescents use such technology to regulate parent-child privacy and disclosure. Thus, by the time adolescents reach ` college, patterns of privacy regulation vis-a-vis individual communication channels may already be routinized, thus minimizing occurrence of boundary turbulence. Alternatively but relatedly, previous theory suggests that increased independence is a defining characteristic of adolescence (Arnett, 1994); perhaps dissemination of such theory (via college education, media outlets, and so forth) has further helped routinize privacy expectations for parents and their college children. Yet, a second possible explanation is that behaviors perceived as invasive by pre- vious generations of undergraduates are no longer perceived as such. In other words,
  16. 16. 198 A. M. Ledbetter et al. these results may not so much signal a shift in parents’ communicative behavior as a shift in young adult children’s perceptions of that behavior. In the language of CPM, undergraduate students may view their private information as falling within the col- lective boundary of the family. Pryor, Hurtado, Sharkness, and Korn’s (2008) recent report that undergraduates are generally satisfied with their parents’ level of involve- ment supports this interpretation. If current undergraduates ‘‘are often exceedingly close to their parents’’ (Elam, Stratton, & Gibson, 2008, p. 22), this closeness may blind students to independence-threatening parental invasive behaviors. Moreover, Haythornthwaite’s (2005) media multiplexity theory suggests that interdependence is associated with the number of communication media that relational partners use with each other, a claim supported by empirical research (Ledbetter, 2009). Thus, to the extent that new communication technology both fosters a sense of relational closeness, young adult children may be more willing to co-own private informationDownloaded By: [Wright State University] At: 19:49 13 April 2011 with their parents. Indeed, this interpretation supports concerns about helicopter parenting, a form of frequent parental involvement that the college student may welcome (Merriman, 2007). Beyond the striking trend of fewer invasions, our typology also differs somewhat from that developed by Petronio (1994). The revision aimed chiefly at accounting for mediated privacy invasions that were less salient in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We also collapsed some of Petronio’s (1994) categories into larger units (e.g., for inva- sions, ‘‘give unsolicited advice’’ was included with ‘‘make demands’’; for defenses, ‘‘using signs such as ‘keep out’’’ and ‘‘asking their parents to stop’’ were combined into ‘‘direct requests to stop invasions’’). Whether the underlying factor structure of our typology conforms to Petronio’s (1994) differentiation between subversive= direct invasions and confrontational=evasive defenses remains an open question that could be effectively addressed via confirmatory factor analysis. Apart from such for- mal analysis, we do not portray our typology as superior to Petronio’s (1994), but merely as an alternative offering a different theoretical lens. Invasive/Defensive Behaviors at Home and Away at College Previous research concerning the parent-collegiate child relationship identifies dis- tance (i.e., the child’s relocation away from the parental home) as a theoretical mech- anism that drives children’s sense of independence (Flanagan et al., 1993; Larose & Boivin, 1998). Thus, our fifth and sixth research questions addressed the extent to which home invasive=defensive behaviors are associated with such behaviors when at college. Both spatial and verbal invasions were less frequent at college than at home. The frequency of mediated (i.e., phone and online) invasions did not differ, which may provide some support for the argument that new communication tech- nologies enable parents to invade from a distance. However, this interpretation is tempered by the relative infrequency of mediated invasions. Relatedly, children’s defensive behaviors occurred less frequently at college with the exception of signifi- cantly more telephone defenses. This may suggest that children view phone com- munication as more threatening to their autonomy than online communication.