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Mobile phone dependence of female students and perceived parental rearing attitudes.

Using a written questionnaire we surveyed a sample population of 155 female students, and investigated the associations between mobile phone dependence and perceived parental rearing attitudes. Participants completed the Mobile Phone Dependence Questionnaire (MPDQ; Toda, Monden, Kubo, & Morimoto, 2004) and the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI; Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979). In relation to maternal rearing attitudes, analysis of responses revealed a statistically significant difference in MPDQ scores between respondents who fell in the categories for high care/high protection and low care/low protection. In relation to paternal rearing attitudes, no such difference was apparent. These findings suggest that the childhood relationship with the mother may be associated with mobile phone dependence. Furthermore, loneliness may contribute to this association.

Keywords: mobile phone, Mobile Phone Dependence Questionnaire (MPDQ), parental rearing attitudes, Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI), loneliness, female students.


The mobile phone has rapidly become an established part of daily life. In Japan, even excluding the more than 4.5 million phones used by Personal Handy-phone System (PHS) subscribers, in March 2007 there were 96.72 million mobile phones in use, which translates to a penetration rate of about 74% (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 2007). While this new information and communication technology is convenient and popular, during its adoption, various social issues have arisen, including objections to the use of mobile phones in public places and excessive use or even dependence. Viewing compulsive mobile phone use as a type of technostress (Brod, 1984), and hoping to identify high-risk groups, we designed a questionnaire to gauge mobile phone dependence (Mobile Phone Dependence Questionnaire, MPDQ) (Toda, Monden, Kubo, & Morimoto, 2004). In another study, we found a relationship between mobile phone dependence and health-related lifestyle, especially for male university students: specifically, respondents with poor lifestyle scores had statistically significant higher scores for mobile phone dependence (Toda, Monden, Kubo, & Morimoto, 2006). Other factors, such as patterns of behavior or parental rearing attitudes in childhood may, however, also contribute to mobile phone dependence.

In the present study, by analyzing the responses of female university students, we examined associations between mobile phone dependence and perceived parental rearing attitudes, which were evaluated by the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) (Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979). The PBI measures fundamental parenting dimensions, care and overprotection (Parker et al., 1979). Some previous studies have suggested that low parental care or parental overprotection, or both, may be associated with depression (Parker, 1979, 1983a) or an unhealthy lifestyle (Toda, Kawai, Takeo, Rokutan, & Morimoto, 2008). Furthermore, the PBI has been widely used in psychosocial studies of current interpersonal relationships such as social support (Kitamura, Kijima, Watanabe, Takezaki, & Tanaka, 1999; Parker, Barrett, & Hickie, 1992) or marital adjustment (Kitamura et al., 1995).



We recruited 155 female students from a nursing college to individually fill out a set of self-reporting questionnaires designed to evaluate mobile phone dependence, perceived parenting, and loneliness. The answers of the 149 respondents, who had both mobile phones and mobile phone access to the Internet, were statistically analyzed. Mean ([+ or -] SD) age was 24.6 [+ or -] 5.8 years.

Mobile phone dependence was evaluated using the MPDQ (Toda et al., 2004, 2006), a self-rating questionnaire which consists of 20 items. Respondents score each answer using a Likert scale (0, 1, 2, 3). Likert scores for each item are then summed to provide a quantitative overall mobile phone dependence score ranging from 0 to 60. Higher scores indicate greater dependence.

A quantitative measure of perceived parenting attitudes was obtained using the PBI (Parker et al., 1979), a self-rating questionnaire which consists of 25 items, including 12 items rating parental care and 13 items relevant to overprotection. The scale is retrospective: based on respondent memory of parents to age 16, subjects rate each item using a Likert scale (0, 1, 2, 3). Higher care scores indicate perceived acceptance and affection, while lower care scores indicate perceived indifference and rejection. Higher overprotection scores indicate perceived overprotection and interference, while lower overprotection scores indicate perceived encouragement of independence. Cut-off care and overprotection scores were 27.0 and 13.5 for mothers, and 24.0 and 12.5 for fathers (Parker, 1983b). For each parent, respondents were allocated to one of four groups: high care and high protection (affectionate constraint); low care and high protection (affectionless control); high care and low protection (optimal parenting); and low care and low protection (neglectful parenting).

Loneliness was evaluated using the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3) (Russell, 1996). This is a 20-item self-report inventory measured using a Likert scale (1, 2, 3, 4). Those with high scores on this scale are considered to be experiencing loneliness.

All results are expressed as mean values [+ or -] standard deviation. Before statistical analysis, normal distribution was checked by Kolmogorov-Smirnov testing. Scores for each parameter (mobile phone dependence, loneliness) were corroborated by this test. We used analysis of variance (ANOVA) for comparisons of the data of different groups. Bonferroni's test was used for multiple comparisons. Moreover, chi-square testing was also performed. Values were considered significantly different when p < 0.05.


There was no significant difference in age, PBI scores, or loneliness scores between subjects included in and excluded from analysis. Meanwhile, of 149 subjects included in analysis, three had no memory of their fathers and two had no memory of their mothers. They were, therefore, excluded from each analysis.

Related to maternal rearing attitudes, the high care/high protection group and low care/low protection group showed a statistically significant difference in mobile phone dependence scores (Figure lb). No such difference was apparent for paternal rearing attitudes (Figure la).

Consequently, we compared the responses of the maternal high care/high protection group and the low care/low protection group to specific questions. Chi-square testing revealed that more respondents in the maternal high care/high protection group often used the accessory functions of mobile phone, such as mail services, scheduling, Internet services, and games (Table 1). Although we found no significant difference in loneliness scores between the maternal high care/high protection and the low care/low protection groups (Table 2), more respondents in the high care/high protection group exceeded the mean on this scale (66.7% vs. 30.4%, [chi square] = 4.82, df = 1, p < 0.05).



Analysis of the data revealed associations between mobile phone dependence and perceived maternal rearing attitudes. The high care/high protection group had significantly higher scores for mobile phone dependence than the low care/ low protection group. We found no such difference associated with paternal rearing attitudes. These findings suggest that, for females, technostress, such as mobile phone dependence, tends to be associated with same-sex parental rearing attitudes. In a previous study, however, we found that for males, but not females, mental health status evaluated using the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (Zung, 1965) is associated with maternal rearing attitudes (Toda et al., 2008). Our present findings, therefore, may be peculiar to technostress, or to the peculiarities of our sample population. To confirm our present findings, further studies including males are required.

In the high care/high protection group more respondents scored high for loneliness than in the maternal low care/low protection group. This finding suggests that, both in positive and negative ways, a close relationship to the mother in childhood may contribute to susceptibility to loneliness. In addition, most of the respondents in the maternal high care/high protection group (80.0%) and the low care/low protection group (73.9%) lived alone or in a dormitory ([chi square] = 0.19, df = 1, p = 0.72). Consequently, loneliness, in turn, may lead to mobile phone dependence. Previous studies have suggested that, among young people, mobile phones increase the frequency of communication and allow opportunities for expanding interpersonal relationships (Igarashi, Takai, & Yoshida, 2005; Matsuda, 2000). In addition, respondents in the maternal high care/high protection group used mail services more often than those in the maternal low care/low protection group. A previous study has found that females are more likely to use email to keep in touch with family members (Boneva, Kraut, & Frohlich, 2001). Meanwhile, the accessory functions of mobile phones such as Internet services or games may be a way to relieve loneliness.

In this study, we found associations between mobile phone dependence and perceived maternal rearing attitudes. This research, however, has several limitations, mainly stemming from the demographic focus: all subjects belonged to a nurses' college, which is too restricted to represent a general population cohort. Thus, our results may have been biased. In fact, the mean MPDQ score of the present study was lower than that of our previous study (Toda et al., 2006) which was conducted on university students (25.6 vs. 32.4). Further examination of larger and more varied populations is required. Furthermore, populations with diverse modes of residence, such as solitary, in a family, or in a dormitory should be investigated in future studies.


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Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan


Aino Gakuin College, Osaka, Japan


Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan

Masahiro Toda, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan; Satoko Ezoe, Department of Nursing, Aino Gakuin College, Osaka, Japan; Asaya Nishi, Takashi Mukai, Mika Goto, and Kanehisa Morimoto, Department of Social and Environmental Medicine, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka, Japan

The authors would like to thank honorary professor Hikaru Tsuji and lecturer Aki Naritomi at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (Munich) for their valuable advice and assistance. This research was supported by grants from the Nissan Science Foundation.

Appreciation is due to anonymous reviewers.

Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Professor Kanehisa Morimoto, Department of Social and Environmental Medicine, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, 2-2 YamadaOka, Suita, Osaka, Japan 565-0871. Phone: +81 (6) 6879-3920; Fax: +81 (6) 6879-3929; Email:

                     High care / high   Low care / low
                        protection        protection     Chi-square
                         (n = 15)          (n = 23)

Mail services              80.0              39.1         6.13 (b)
Internet services          80.0              43.5         4.97 (b)
Clock                      86.7              91.3         0.21
Alarm                      93.3             100.0         1.57
Camera                     66.7              39.1         2.75
Games                      33.3               8.7         3.67 (a)
Memo pad                   40.0              13.0         3.65
Schedule                   40.0               8.7         5.35 (b)
Calculator                 73.3              43.5         3.27

(a) p < 0.1, (b) p < 0.05.


                                       Loneliness score (mean values
                                                [+ or -] SD)

High care / high protection (n = 15)         42.9 [+ or -] 9.5
Low care / high protection (n = 32)          42.6 [+ or -] 11.2
High care / low protection (n = 77)          37.9 [+ or -] 9.3
Low care / low protection (n = 23)           37.6 [+ or -] 11.4

Note. Two subjects had no memory of their mothers.
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Author:Toda, Masahiro; Ezoe, Satoko; Nishi, Asaya; Mukai, Takashi; Goto, Mika; Morimoto, Kanehisa
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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