Couple boundaries for social networking in middle adulthood: Associations of trust and satisfaction


The present study examined married individuals’ boundaries and rules for online social networking and the relationship between these boundaries and relational trust and satisfaction. Participants included 205 married individuals who had been married for an average of 27 years (mean age = 51 years). Five specific boundaries were identified and tested using multiple sample structural equation modeling. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed two latent constructs for Internet boundaries: Openness and Fidelity. Trusting one’s partner, but not relationship satisfaction, was linked with behaviors that reflect sharing online social networking information, and decreased behaviors were associated with online flirting and relationships with former romantic partners. Trust was more strongly associated with men’s than women’s motivation to avoid flirtatious online interaction and communicating with former romantic partners online. These results indicate that the use of Internet boundaries is highly related to trust and also support the development theory of trust.

boundaries; couple relationships; marriage; social networking; trust
Author biographies

Aaron M. Norton

Author photo Aaron M. Norton, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor, Department of Family Sciences, at Texas Woman’s University. He has presented multiple times at national conferences for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and for the National Council on Family Relations. His research interests are in couple relationships and technology mediated communication.

Joyce Baptist

Author photo Joyce Baptist, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor, School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. Her main research areas include cross-cultural research on relationship maintenance and conflict among emerging adults and long-term marriages, resiliency in military families and marginalized groups.

Anderson, J. R., Van Ryzin, M. J., & Doherty, W. J. (2010). Developmental trajectories of marital happiness in continuously married individuals: A group-based modeling approach. Journal of Family Psychology, 24, 587-596.

Arbuckle, J. L. (2009). Amos 18 user's guide. Chicago, IL: SPSS.

Boon, S. D., & Holmes, J. G. (1991). The dynamics of interpersonal trust: Resolving uncertainty in the face of risk. In R. A. Hinde & J. Groebel (Eds.), Cooperation and prosocial behavior (p. 190-211). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Brenner, J., & Smith, A. (2013). 72% of online adults are social networking site users. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Butler, M. H., Harper, J. M., & Seedall, R. B. (2009). Facilitated disclosure versus clinical accommodation of infidelity secrets: An early pivot point in couple therapy. Part 1: Couple relationship ethics, pragmatics, and attachment. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 35, 125-143.

Butler, M. H., Seedall, R. B., & Harper, J. M. (2008). Facilitated disclosure versus clinical accommodation of infidelity secrets: An early pivot point in couple therapy. Part 2: Therapy ethics, pragmatics, and protocol. American Journal of Family Therapy, 36, 265-283.

Campbell, L., Simpson, J. A., Boldry, J. G., & Rubin, H. (2010). Trust, variability in relationship evaluations, and relationship processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 14-31.

Canary, D. J., & Stafford, L. (1994). Maintaining relationships through strategic and routine interactions. In D. J. Canary & L. Stafford (Eds.), Communication and Relationship Maintenance. (pp. 3-22). New York: Academic Press.

Chan, D. K., & Cheng, G. H. (2004). A comparison of offline and online friendship qualities at different stages of relationship development. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 305-320.

Cheung, G. W., & Rensvold, R. B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 233-255.

Darvell, M. J., Walsh, S. P., & White, K. M. (2011). Facebook tells me so: Applying the theory of planned behavior to understand partner-monitoring behavior on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14, 717-722.

Duba, J. D., Kindsvatter, A., & Lara, T. (2008). Treating infidelity: Considering narratives of attachment. The Family Journal, 16, 293-299.

Duggan, M., & Smith, A. (2013). Social media update 2013. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Duran, R. L., Kelly, L., & Rotaru, T. (2011). Mobile phones in romantic relationships and the dialectic of autonomy vs. connection. Communication Quarterly, 59, 19-36.

Elphinston, R. A., & Noller, P. (2011). Time to face it! Facebook intrusion and the implications for romantic jealousy and relationship satisfaction. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14, 631-635.

Fife, S. T., Weeks, G. R., & Gambescia, N. (2008). Treating infidelity: An integrative approach. The Family Journal, 16, 316-323.

Fleeson, W., & Leicht, C. (2006). On delineating and integrating the study of variability and stability in personality psychology: Interpersonal trust as illustration. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 5-20.

Fletcher, G. J. O., Simpson, J. A., & Thomas, G. (2000). The measurement of perceived relationship quality components: A confirmatory factor analytic approach. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 340-354.

Fowers, B. J., & Olson, D. H. (1993). ENRICH marital satisfaction scale: A brief research and clinical tool. Journal of Family Psychology, 7, 176-185.

Fox, S., & Rainie, L. (2014). The web at 25. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Goldberg, M. (1982). The dynamics of marital interaction and marital conflict. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 5, 449-467.

Gordon, K. C., Baucom, D. H., & Snyder, D. K. (2004). An integrative intervention for promoting recovery from extramarital affairs. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 30, 213-231.

Helsper, E. & Whitty, M. (2010). Netiquette within married couples: Agreement about acceptable online behavior and surveillance between partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 916-926.

Hertlein, K. M., & Blumer, M. L. (2013). The couple and family technology framework: Intimate relationships in a digital age Brunner-Routledge.

Hertlein, K. M., & Piercy, F. P. (2006). Internet infidelity: A critical review of the literature. The Family Journal, 14, 366-371.

Holmes, J. G. (1991). Trust and the appraisal process in close relationships. In W. H. Jones, & D. Perlman (Eds.), Advances in personal relationships (pp. 57-104). Oxford, England: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Holmes, J. G., & Rempel, J. K. (1989). Trust in close relationships. In C. Hendrick (Ed.), Close relationships. Review of personality and social psychology, Vol. 10 (pp. 187-220). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1997). Neuroticism, marital interaction, and the trajectory of marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1075-1092.

Kerkhof, P., Finkenauer, C., & Muusses, L. D. (2011). Relational consequences of compulsive internet use: A longitudinal study among newlyweds. Human Communication Research, 37, 147-173.

Klacsmann, A. N. (2008). Recovering from infidelity: Attachment, trust, shattered assumptions, and forgiveness from a betrayed partner's perspective. ProQuest.

Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (3rd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.

Lewicki, R. J., & Bunker, B. (1995). Trust in relationships: A model of trust development and decline. In B. Bunker & J. Rubin (Eds.), Conflict, cooperation and justice (pp. 133-173). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Miller-Ott, A. E., Kelly, L., & Duran, R. L. (2012). The effects of cell phone usage rules on satisfaction in romantic relationships. Communication Quarterly, 60(1), 17-34.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. USA: Harvard University Press.

Muthén, L.K., & Muthén, B.O. (1998-2010). Mplus user’s guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.

Riva, G. (2002). The sociocognitive psychology of computer-mediated communication: The present and future of technology-based interactions. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 5, 581-598.

Schneider, J. P. (2003). The impact of compulsive cybersex behaviours on the family. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 18, 329-354.

Stafford, L., & Canary, D. J. (1991). Maintenance strategies and romantic relationship type, gender and relational characteristics. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 8, 217-242.

Tallman, I., & Hsiao, Y. (2004). Resources, cooperation, and problem solving in early marriage. Social Psychology Quarterly, 67, 172-188.

Thieme, A. L. (1997). Relationship rules that guide expressions of love and their connection to intimacy, dominant dialectical moments, and love ways. ProQuest Information & Learning. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 57(12-A), 4984-4984. (Electronic; Print). (1997-95011-036)

Whitty, M. T. (2008). Liberating or debilitating? An examination of romantic relationships, sexual relationships and friendships on the net. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1837-1850.

Woolley, S. & Gold, L. (2010). Healing affairs using emotionally focused couple therapy. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology, 138, 217-228.

Zickuhr, K. (2013). Who’s not online and why. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Zickuhr, K. & Smith, A. (2012). Digital differences. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from





HTML views