The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

Mass media, technology, among factors affecting relationships in Malta, new study shows

Joanna Demarco Thursday, 7 December 2017, 12:21 Last update: about 8 days ago

Mass media, technology and consumerism are three of the factors tampering with modern-day relationships in Malta, a new local study has found. Other factors include struggling with a work-family balance and the perceived ease of getting a legal separation or divorce.

The study released earlier today - Sustaining Relationships: The Expectations and Lived Experiences of Maltese Couples - is the second major study carried out by the National Centre for Family Research, within the President's Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society. The launch was presided over by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.

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Speaking about the findings, Dr Sue Vella, Expert at the National Centre for Family Research, explained that according to the research, consumerist norms have led to a reordering of people's priorities; adding to economic pressure and decreasing quality time together. Besides that, consumerism impacts relationships when parents do not want their children to feel deprived or different and also when they feel the need to maintain a 'socially acceptable' lifestyle, which has become increasingly financially demanding.  "This sometimes results in conflict between partners over consumption choices," she explained.

The impact of mass media received mixed reactions by participants, Vella explained, saying they shape individuals' expectations of couple relationships and marriage. "They feel romance has been idealized on mass media," she explained. This idealized nature was seen to leave couples ill-prepared for reality.

Communication technologies were also found to deeply affect the couple relationship. "On a positive note, they were seen to facilitate communication during long working hours," Vella explained. However, social media was seen to intrude upon quality time, especially when people were more attentive to their devices than to their partners. Technologies were also perceived by some to increase the risk of infidelity.

"Nowadays, marital dissolution is becoming more of a norm," she went on to explain, highlighting it as another factor which is affecting relationships, along with the work-quality time balance.

The study found that a surprising number of interviewees expressed their fear of partner's infidelity, especially in cases where colleagues socialize outside working hours. Financial pressure and keeping up with the increasing cost of living were other factors where work-quality time balance

Speaking about the research, President Coleiro Preca said that what caught her attention the most was the effect of quality time of couples on the well-being of the individuals, which is becoming more limited with the  hectic lifestyle of modern life.

"We know that today it is more difficult to make time for each other, but that does not mean it should be a hurdle when it comes to investing more in our relationships," she said. 

Featuring 23 interviews with couples, the study is a more in-depth exploration into the wellbeing of relationships that was developed in response to the outcomes of the first nationwide survey on life and relationship satisfaction in Malta, published in 2016.

 


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