Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This study contributes to our knowledge of life-span communication by examining the communication of the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) as they re-enter the dating scene. Although Baby Boomers' early years of dating (the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's) occurred in a time of new-found freedom, especially in sexual relationships, the experience of dating several decades later brings many complications due to aging and children. The intent of this study was not to generalize that all Baby Boomers would express the views stated in this study, but to show the complexity of this generation, and to present a theoretical framework for better understanding communication in their romantic relationships, and with their adult children. Information gathered in this research fills an important gap in the information about this generation. Although previous studies have examined romantic communication of much younger or older subjects, the current study employs a life-span perspective with extended interviews of twenty-four men and women age 46-64, to examine changes in communication from the respondents' early years of dating to mid-life. Results indicated that numerous changes in romantic communication and behavior have occurred, especially in the areas of communication channels, use of technology, and physical romance. Bowen Family Systems Theory (1966) and Petronio‟s (2002) Communication Privacy Management Theory were used as a framework to explore how management of communication within the family affects the romantic relationships of single Baby Boomer parents. Results indicate that a poorly differentiated family member can create or amplify privacy boundaries, thus hampering communication within the family unit. Triangulation, the addition of any third person (in this case, the romantic partner of the Baby Boomer parent) to a two-person relationship (parent and child), can potentially affect the original relationship. Most interviewees indicated that they had open communication with their adult children, but they failed to notice that they were not discussing the parent's romantic relationship. Most of them also stated that their children's opinions about their partners would be noted, but not acted upon. These findings suggest that communication in the family should be carefully monitored when triangulating new persons into relationships.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Pecchioni, Loretta L.



Included in

Communication Commons