Medialiseret forældreskab: Digitale mediers rolle i overgangen til forældreskabet

Publication: ResearchPh.D. thesis

As digital media have become an increasingly integral part of personal and family life, they have also been woven tightly into one of the most important phases of change in life, namely the transition to parenthood.
To have a child is a life change that involves alterations of life practically and socially as well as in terms of identity. Digital media offer a variety of resources targeting the starting of a family, not just websites with articles, services, and products, but also online fora where parents can meet and exchange tips and ideas. At the same time social network sites, especially Facebook, create new opportunities for sharing family life with a very wide circle of acquaintances. Mobile technologies, particularly the smartphone, add more tools and render the array of information resources and communication channels constantly available.
This doctoral dissertation studies the role of digital media in the transition to parenthood. Specifically, the dissertation aims to answer the following research question:
What cultural and social dynamics and change processes, including what opportunities and challenges, are related to the role that digital media today play in the transition to parenthood?
The dissertation explores this question on the basis of a synchronous study within an overall mediatization perspective. The first part of the dissertation focuses on a conceptualization of the relationship between digital media and parenting as well as an exploration of theoretical perspectives and methods that make it possible to study the interactions between the two. Concretely, the dissertation builds on a number of key studies within audience research, which have contributed knowledge about the media’s role in the family and the home. This is done by including three approaches to mediatization: the cultural, the institutional, and the material, each of which offers an important perspective to analyze and understand the interaction between both media communicative and socio-cultural change processes. In addition, the dissertation includes a perspective from family sociology and understandings of the relationship between communication and ritual.
Against this backdrop, the dissertation unfolds a multi-case study of eight Danish first- time parental couples’ use and experience of digital media in relation to their new social role as parents. The eight cases were selected consecutively from a questionnaire survey in a municipality in Western Jutland and in the greater Aarhus area. The survey was distributed in these districts by members of the local municipal health care service who also took part in preliminary expert interviews. The multi-case study itself is based on three types of empirical material, namely a) qualitative interviews (both couples and individuals) with the eight parents, which was integrated with b) observations of their domestic media environment, and c) an archive of recorded activity from each of their Facebook profiles during the pregnancy period and in the first four months as a new family (13 months in total) harvested using the new research tool ’Digital Footprints’.
Thus, the dissertation’s concrete research contributions are the following:
Primary contribution:
A multi-case study showing how first-time parents in relation to their new social role use digital media to establish and maintain relationships, get information and guidance, and explore and express their new identity as parents. The study suggests that communication about family on social network sites, especially Facebook, is associated with new expectations about how parents should act communicatively. The case study’s main contribution is the crystallization of four types of communicative orientation that characterize parents’ approach to Facebook as a social network site, and which are expressed through differences in aesthetics, taste, and values. The four types of communicative orientation is: a) a family-oriented, b) a peer-oriented, c) an oppositional, and d) non-use.
Secondary contribution:
Based on qualitative audience research and mediatization theory, the dissertation contributes a conceptualization of the relationship between media and parenthood. This is carried out in a study design focusing on how first-time parents use and experience digital media as text and technology, and on the attribution of meaning that their media use is associated with in the context. Herein lies a contribution to the development of new methods in audience research, as qualitative interviews and media environment observations are combined with analysis of extensive data from the case study participants’ Facebook profiles harvested using the new research tool ’Digital Footprints’.
Finally, the dissertation briefly proposes future research activities to further understanding of the growing and increasingly complex interaction between family, parenthood, and digital media.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSchool of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University
Number of pages254
StatePublished - 12 Jan 2017

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