Mobile Diary Methods in Studying Daily Family Life

Mobile Diary Methods in Studying Daily Family Life

Kaisa Malinen (JAMK University of Applied Sciences, Finland), Anna Rönkä (University of Jyvaskyla, Finland) and Eija Sevón (University of Jyvaskyla, Finland)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch032
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This chapter introduces a mobile diary data collection tool and discusses its use in the field of family research. Although the mobile diary method is a newcomer in the field of family research, its history is rooted in the larger context of the development of methods for investigating daily life. Mobile phones offer several advantages for studying daily family dynamics: user friendliness, cost-effectiveness, the ability to capture daily emotions, interactions and significant moments, and data reliability and validity. Mobile diaries utilize various mobile phone services, including SMSs and applications, and they are increasingly used also with children. The benefits of mobile diaries in family interventions include their ability to elicit reflection and help clients to keep the aim of the intervention in mind. The future possibilities of mobile diaries in family research and interventions are discussed later in this chapter.
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Although a newcomer in the field of family research, the history the mobile diary method is rooted in the wider context of the development of methods for investigating daily life. While the diary method has a far longer history in other disciplines (see Wilhelm & Perrez, 2013), it is nevertheless several decades since one of the first family research studies to utilize diaries was published by Thomas Wills, Robert Weiss, and Gerald Patterson (1974). These researchers asked seven married couples to monitor their marital behaviors and time use for a period of 14 days and to report back to the researchers in two daily landline phone calls. Since then, the use of the diary method in family research has grown. Pioneering experts in the history of diary methods in family research include professor Rena Repetti from the University of California, professor Reed Larson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and professor David Almeida, the Pennsylvania State University. At the end of the 20th century Larson and Almeida (1999) proposed the emotional transmission paradigm for understanding daily paths of emotional interchange in the family context. On the methodological level, studies using this paradigm often rely on diaries.

During the last two decades, diary methods have been intensively developed (see reviews by Bolger, Davis, & Rafaeli, 2003; Christensen, Barrett, Bliss-Moreau, Lebo, & Kaschub, 2003; Scollon, Kim-Pieto, & Diener, 2003). In particular, various new technologies have become increasingly utilized in diary studies, with different forms of electronic diaries complementing traditional paper-and-pencil diaries (Intille, 2012). The devices used in electronic diaries have become smaller and smarter; palmtops and pagers have gradually been replaced by mobile phones and smartphones. At the same time as the possibilities of mobile diary methods have been noticed in the field of family research, they have also been realized in several other areas of research, such as in measuring mood (Courvoisier, Eid, Lischetzke, & Schreiber, 2010) and in alcohol research (Kuntsche & Robert, 2009). Current leading scholars in diary research in the field of family studies include Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, University of Delaware, and Niall Bolger, Columbia University, as well as Meinrad Perrez and Dominic Schöbi, the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, whose work is discussed later in the text.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Diary Method: Diary method that utilizes mobile phones in data collection.

Family Research: Multidisciplinary research field focusing on different family-related phenomena.

Diary Method: Data collection method that utilizes intensive, repeated measurements over a limited time period.

Experience Sampling Method: See diary method.

Data Collection: A systematic process of gathering and measuring information about the phenomena of interest.

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