Partner-seeking through newspaper personal advertisements: A study of media dependency and adoption of innovation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Melvin L. DeFleur


dependency theory

Subject Categories

Social Psychology and Interaction


This dissertation focuses on two theoretical perspectives relevant to the use of newspaper personal advertisements. The first is dependency theory, which predicts that as urban-industrial societies become increasingly differentiated, people have fewer traditional channels from which to obtain needed information. Under these conditions, the theory predicts that people tend to turn to the mass media to obtain information they need to make important decisions, such as finding partners. With increased frequency, individuals are using the media to find mates, particularly through newspaper advertisements.

The second perspective is the adoption of innovation model, which describes the stages and the overall patterns that result when new forms of behavior are taken up and spread through relevant populations, such as when newspapers adopt the technology needed to accommodate these ads. Thus, the individual use of personal ads and their pattern of adoption by newspapers brings together these two theoretical perspectives.

The research questions were formulated to take an objective view of these phenomena. A content analysis of newspaper advertisements, a telephone survey of daily newspapers and a case study of a daily newspaper were conducted in an attempt to answer these questions. The results suggest that the increased use of personal ads supports a theory of media dependency and the typical user is profiled. In addition, the increased incorporation of voice mail personals by the daily press supports an organizational model of the adoption of innovation. These findings have important implications for individuals and for newspapers.

The first portion of this study examines the historical and cross-cultural background of meeting others by traditional and non-traditional means. Chapter 1 introduces the problem and defines the approach of the dissertation. Chapter 2 provides the cultural underpinnings of searching for partners. Chapter 3 describes mate selection in the United States. Chapter 4 provides an analysis of the theoretical foundations upon which this behavior is placed while Chapter 5 provides a description of the methodologies employed in carrying out the research. Chapter 6 presents the findings and Chapter 7 contains the discussion, recommendations and conclusions.


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