Are we happy now? : assessing the role of electronic technology in family ritual and parental well-being.


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The ubiquitous nature of electronic devices today has led to questioning of the unintended consequences of technology on our relationships. Meanwhile, it is widely argued that the family meal can provide a place for regular family interaction. This paper ties these research strands together by examining how the presence of such devices during family meals might be related to the quality of these interactions and, ultimately, affect measures of parental well-being. Using data from the Culture of American Families survey (2011), I find that daily family meals are positive in their relationship to parents reporting to be “very happy” across two measures of well-being. Based on Collins’ (2004) theory of interaction ritual, I argue that parents strongly desire the emotional energy that results from parent-child interactions during the family meal, while my findings suggest that these positive results may be inhibited by the mere presence of electronic devices if this ritual does not take place daily. Thus, in the presence of electronic devices, even regular family meals may not be enough to produce the meaningful interactions that promote well-being.



Parent-child interaction. Family meal. Ritual. Technology