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Students Who Raise a Virtual Child Develop a “Relationship” With the Child Related to Their Own Adult Attachment Style: A Case Study of Methodology to Examine Parenting in Cyberspace

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By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases in Psychology
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Abstract

We live in a digital age, and psychological research has increasingly examined relationships which develop through the Internet. This case study describes the parenting simulation website MyVirtualChild©, in which students raise a child from birth to age 19. This simulation was initially used as a term-long course assignment within developmental psychology courses to support pedagogy, but based on students’ responses to the task, it led to research opportunities to examine relations between adult attachment styles and caregiver attitudes that develop toward the virtual child. An attachment theory approach was used and data from two papers are reviewed which show students who raised a virtual child were very engaged: They felt they developed a relationship with their child and expressed positive feelings toward their child. In addition, students high in avoidance in their own personal relationships developed relatively more negative parental attitudes toward their virtual child, which replicates related findings in developmental research examining real parents of real children. Practical aspects of conducting this research are presented, and students are asked to reflect more generally on other forms of parenting simulations, relationships in cyberspace, and how these can be examined within research paradigms

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