Changes in the Telephone Calling Patterns of Adolescent Girls

Article excerpt


Each new era produces its share of folk wisdom or common knowledge that has not been subjected to scientific verification. A phenomenon that is commonly believed to be a part of the shifting pattern of adolescent behavior is the rate at which adolescent girls now call adolescent boys. Newspaper articles, television talk shows, and gossip all support the notion that teenage girls are now super "sexually aggressive" and call boys relentlessly at all hours of the day and night (Quintanilla, 1991). Nevertheless, two exhaustive literature searches failed to find any documentation of this reported change in telephone calling patterns. Speculations about the causes and meaning of this behavior change are without merit until the change itself has been confirmed. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that during the last 40 years the incidence of adolescent girls calling adolescent boys has increased.



Participants in the study were students at the University of New Orleans, a public, commuter university which includes a wide age range of adults encompassing a variety of lifestyles, orientations, socioeconomic strata, and ethnic backgrounds.


Following approval by the Human Subjects Committee, a list of all current students was secured from the records office. All subjects were telephoned by one of four female investigators and asked to participate in a confidential survey, which consisted of 17 items. Gathering of basic demographic information was preceded by confirmation that the subjects were raised in the United States. Participants were then asked a series of questions about their telephone use between the ages of 8 and 18. Equal numbers of men and women in each of eight age categories were targeted for study. Responses from a ratio of 3 to 1 Caucasian vs. African American respondents was also designed into the data collection process. Calls were made until each category was complete or until the list of students' names in that category was exhausted.

Women were asked if their parents approved of their calling boys, the number of calls made, and number of boys called within a week. Men were asked the same questions from the perspective of the receiver. At the end of the interview each respondent was debriefed regarding the intent of the survey and how to obtain the results if desired.

Descriptive statistics, measures of central tendency, and measures of variability were conducted along with a profile analysis to test for age-group differences and patterns of calling behavior over the lifespan. Post-hoc Tukey and ANOVA tests were conducted to determine significant between-group differences.


The 578 respondents (F = 288, M = 290) were divided into 8 different age groups (17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, 51+). Each age group represents between 10.5 and 14.1% of the sample. Within the sample, 24.8% of the respondents were African American and 75.2% Caucasian. There were no significant differences between Caucasians and African Americans in their telephone calling patterns. Most of the respondents were Catholic (44%) or Protestant (25.9%), which is representative of the urban community. Most of the respondents grew up in two-parent households (86.6%), with the major economic provider classified as an executive, professional, or service worker (66.5). Most respondents had access to a phone (97.6%) and had privacy while talking on the phone (79.0%) when they were between the ages of 8 and 18.

Table 1 shows the relationship between perceived parental approval of girls calling boys, and boys receiving calls from girls. The table compares calling behavior between the ages of 8 and 18 to the current age of the respondents. Female respondents evidenced a particularly striking pattern of responses to this question. Females who are currently over 40 perceived their parents as disapproving of their calling boys. …


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