Pandemic Partnering: COVID-19's Impact on College Students' Dating Practices

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Virginia Tech


This thesis seeks to explore if and how college students' dating practices have changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Through eight focus group interviews (n=51), participants discussed their dating practices, use of online dating platforms, and navigation of health and safety protocols. A thematic analysis was used to identify and define major themes from the focus groups. Findings revealed four themes in how college students define dating, which were relational investment, exclusivity labels, dating progression, and the role of hookup culture. When addressing how the pandemic has changed the way college students date, six themes were identified: importance of communication, technology as a tool, impact of family, violating safety norms, negative affect expression, and gaining perspective. This thesis extends academic research on how dating is defined and how uncertainty in the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted dating practices of college students at a large U.S. university in the mid-Atlantic region.



Dating, Online Dating, COVID-19 Pandemic, Uncertainty Reduction Theory Focus Groups, Thematic Analysis