Family Communication: Nurturing and Control in a Changing World


Beth A. Le Poire

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  • Dedication

    To my family, Graham, Huw, Jake, and Rachel, who provide me with a living laboratory for experiencing family life, and without whose support, inspiration and stories, this book would not have been possible. But especially to Graham, who continually lights my fire in all the right ways.

    To my students, past, present, and future, you continue to bring joy to my life through your continual willingness to share the intimacies and intricacies of your own family lives. May you find something relevant to your lives within these pages.


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    Several groups of individuals need to be acknowledged as true contributors to this work. First, the work and dedication of the reviewers of various stages and parts of this manuscript were first-rate. The final version of this book is dramatically different in structure, content, and overall quality because of the time, dedication, insightfulness, and thoroughness of the reviewers, including Tamara Afifi, Pennsylvania State University; Nancy J. Eckstein, Bethel University; Kory Floyd, Arizona State University; Daena J. Goldsmith, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Paulette Grotrian, Washtenaw Community College; Jon A. Hess, University of Missouri-Columbia; Chris Segrin, University of Arizona; Cindy H. White, University of Colorado, Boulder; and Steve Wilson, Purdue University.

    Second, a highly competent group of scholars in the family communication research arena provided work or review pieces that were highly instrumental in the writing of several areas of this book. First, Anita Vangelisti needs to be highly commended for her edited Handbook of Family Communication, also published by Sage. Several of the authors (and their coauthors) from this handbook also deserve specific acknowledgment; their conscientious, thorough, and thoughtful reviews provided the groundwork for several areas of this book. Specifically, I'd like to acknowledge the work of Catherine Surra (on mating), Ted Huston (on parenting), Laurie Van Egeran (on communication in infancy), Laura Stafford (on middle childhood), Brett Laursen (on adolescent-parent communication), John Caughlin (on privacy and demand withdrawal), Allan Sillars (on conflict), and Steve Wilson (on violence in parent-child relationships). In addition, several researchers took the time to provide me with important and timely research reports and should be acknowledged for their collegial spirit. Special acknowledgment goes to Tammy Afifi (nee Golish), Dawn Braithwaite, John Caughlin, Denise Solomon, and Anita Vangelisti.

    Third, all my students deserve recognition. My undergraduates in family communication classes continually inspire me with their enthusiasm for the topic and their willingness to share very intimate family information in large classes. In addition, my undergraduate honor's students and my graduate students continually teach me about issues related to family communication. Special acknowledgment goes to Lauren Ponsford and Emily Moyer-Guse for their independent work on sexual communication between parents and adolescents. Rene Dailey continually taught me about confirmation and disconfirmation in family relationships and provided me with important foundations in the parenting styles literature. Finally, Ashley Duggan, Margaret Prescott, Beth Kono, Mimi Wang, Jennifer Stroufe, and Carolyn Shepard provided me with important insights into communication surrounding depression, eating disorders, and violence. Many of their ideas appear in this text. A special added thanks to Margaret Prescott for providing feedback on the first two chapters.

    Fourth, I must acknowledge the incredible group of editors I was fortunate to work with at Sage. Todd Armstrong, the acquisitions editor, made this book happen and became a good friend and an adopted member of my family. Deya Saoud provided amazing artwork and graphics to bring the work to life through art, pictures, and pictorial representations of abstract numbers. Copy editor Linda Gray made astute editorial adjustments during the production of the book.

    Fifth, my colleagues at UC Santa Barbara provided me not only with the sabbatical to allow the time to write this text, but also supported this teaching endeavor in a highly research-oriented department. I therefore would like to acknowledge Andrew Flanagin, Howard Giles, Miriam Metzger, Anthony Mulac, Robin Nabi, James Potter, Dave Seibold, Ronald Rice, Cynthia Stohl, Michael Stohl, and Scott Reid. I'd especially like to acknowledge Jimmy Bradac, who died during this time and who still continues to provide inspiration to us all to pursue our academic goals.

    Finally, although I dedicated this book to them, I would be remiss not to acknowledge my family again. My husband, Graham, provided support beyond the call during the writing of this book. Quite literally, he provided the structural (e.g., guest house where I did my writing), computer (networking all our computers and providing computer support for frantic calls), and motivational support throughout the process. It can quite honestly be said that this book would not have happened without him. My stepsons, Huw and Jake, have provided me with a rich forum for learning about step-and blended families and continually enrich my opportunities to learn through real-life family communication experiences. They, along with their mother and stepfather truly provided me with a living laboratory to bring the family communication text to life with examples from their own lives. In this same vein, my daughter, Rachel, brought a rich learning experience as well, as we all learned how the blended family could be enriched through the addition of a biological connectedness to her brothers. She also continues to help me learn about adding infant children to families and, along with Huw and Jake, shows me the true joy that only parenting can add to your life. My extended and family of origin also provided me with many examples to bring this book to life, and I thank them for their inspiration as well.


    Family communication has been of interest to researchers, teachers, and students for decades. As we transition into a time when traditional nuclear families (biological mother, biological father, and children all living in the same house) represent only one in four families, those interested in family communication are as interested in the effects of divorce, single parenting, remarriage, newly reconstituted families (stepfamilies and blended families), and adoptive families as they are in the traditional processes of relationship development, marriage, and adding children. As I introduce the topics in this book, I'm hoping you can think of this text as another lesson that you've learned in your family communication class from an additional teacher instead of thinking of it as another dry, boring textbook! To help put us both in the right frame of mind, I'd like to give you some idea of the perspective I bring to the topic of family communication. In concert, I'd like you to find the ways in which this book applies to your current and future lives within families. If you call your parents, siblings, or friends to tell them about something you've read in this book, then it will have been a success.

    Families and Communication

    What does your family look like? If you are like many of my students, you probably think your family was different from the norm. You probably assume that most families have two parents with a mother who works parttime or not at all and a father who works outside the home. Even though this family form is traditional and nuclear, most folks your age were raised in alternative family forms. In fact, only about 24% of kids are raised in the traditional nuclear home (only 10% if you consider only families where the mom stayed at home full-time to be “traditional” nuclear homes). My stepsons (Huw, 19, and Jake, 15), my daughter (Rachel), my husband (Graham), and I are all part of what scholars in family communication call a “binuclear blended” family. The boys live with their mom and their stepdad 6 days every 2 weeks and they live with their dad and me 8 days every 2 weeks. So this form approximates a true nuclear family because the children live in a traditional configuration (one female parent and one male parent in each family unit) in both homes. The difference would be that they live with only one biological parent in each home at any one time. This is consistent with the latest U.S. census, which reports that 69% of children are currently living with two parents even though the census also reports that only 24% are living with married couples (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). Our family is blended because my husband and I have one biological child and we live with two of my husband's biological children. Thus, there are bloodlines connecting all the children in the family. One of the things you will find surprising from this book is that although you might assume that the majority of folks are raised in traditional nuclear homes, a majority of us were actually raised in alternative family forms. This book explores definitions of families that will allow us to consider the full complement of family forms, including cohabitating couples, single-parent homes, stepfamilies, binuclear families, families including one or two gay parents, couples with no children, and extended families (in Chapter 2).

    No doubt some of you will be curious about why we would include all those forms within our definition of the family. Most definitions of families (biological, legal, and sociological) revolve in some way or another around procreation or regulation of sexual conduct. We will consider the assumptions inherent in such definitions and where we get those assumptions from. We will investigate governmental, religious, and societal impacts on our current assumptions about what a family should or should not look like (in Chapter 1). Alternatively, our definition will revolve around marriage-like commitment and the two primary functions of nurturing and control carried out in all family forms, regardless of a couple's decisions about having children.

    Theories of Family Communication

    We will also consider theories about family communication in this book (in Chapter 3). Don't stop reading!! Let me show you how you can apply them to your own life. Take me, for instance. I'm 41 years old, and I just had my first biological baby 3 years ago. As you can imagine, this put me in a quandary when I decided to sign the contract to write this book. I wasn't sure whether I should add the role of “textbook author” to my new role of “mother” and to my expanding repertoire of roles. I say “expanding roles” because I added “wife” 6 years ago. Although this new role in and of itself can be an exciting and frightening addition, I simultaneously assumed the role of “stepmother.” I sound quite nontraditional, but I am merely an illustration of the growing complexity experienced by all of us entering family configurations in various forms as we traverse the 21st century. Given all the changes our society has undergone with regard to family forms, these unique and challenging roles are becoming quite ordinary and normative.

    One perspective that will be introduced throughout this textbook is roles theory. Roles theory will help us to understand the demands and prescriptions placed on us by our roles within families. No doubt, some of you have already been surprised (almost shocked) by my disclosure that I would simultaneously mother a toddler and attempt to write a textbook. What type of mother fails to devote most of her time and attention to feeding, bathing, and cuddling her small child? Others of you might be shocked that a newly minted full professor in communication with many publications and graduate students would even attempt to become a mother at this late stage in her life. Still others among you will believe (as I did) that it is possible for women to do it all. This book explores these gender role assumptions (why men feel extreme pressure to be the resource providers and women feel extreme pressure to be the nurturers) in families and the types of internal and external conflicts they cause within and across family members. We will also consider all the roles that family members can hold and how they affect communication within families.

    Families are also systems with many members who work interdependently with one another and continually affect one another. As such, family systems theory will help us to understand how families adapt to change and mobilize collective action toward goals. This perspective assumes that all families will have hierarchical goals, with larger goals (e.g., health and welfare) subsuming more short-term goals (e.g., education, good job, health care benefits). All these goals help direct the behavior of family members toward attainment of those goals. This approach proves especially helpful when trying to understand families that include alcoholics or drug addicts (or any other member with behavior that is seemingly out of control). In these families, all members are affected by the drunken and out-of-control behavior of the alcoholic. Simultaneously, many of the children raised in this family understand only unpredictability because it has been the only constant in their family lives. Thus, family systems theory helps us to understand why families may inadvertently and unintentionally work to maintain status quo in families that seem to be highly problematic.

    Finally, rules theory will help us to understand the verbal and nonverbal rules of communication that exist in families. Within each of your families, you probably have one other to whom you can disclose. For many of you, it will be your mother. For others, it will be your siblings. What are the factors that promote these rules and how you learn them? Who do you go to for comforting? Who do you turn to for security? What topics are taboo? In my family of origin, for instance, we were not allowed to talk about my grandmother's first husband. What secrets will you uncover about your own family?

    Family Development

    What about you? Where do you fall in this process of family life? The majority of you who are traditional students will be moving from your family of origin into your newly formed family (sometimes called family of procreation, but again, this assumes that families are about organizing sexual conduct and procreation). This means you will take the lessons you learned in the family you grew up in into the family you will make for yourself. This is an exciting time for you because many of you will be dating, and although not all of us will admit it, much of the dating process is spent in mate selection—trying to differentiate between marriageable and nonmarriageable mates. In this text, we will explore both sociopsychological and psychoanalytic approaches to why you are attracted to the partners you are attracted to. The psychoanalytic approaches are my favorite because these fit most squarely within the communication arena. Attachment theories examine how you attached to your primary caregiver (still generally the mother figure) and how this affects how you subsequently attach to romantic significant others in your life. Specifically, most of you will have had warm and available caregivers who made you feel loved and who you learned were trustworthy. For those 50% of us raised this way, we grew up to be securely attached to our parents. The other 50% were not so lucky in that we attached in insecure ways. We either were anxious-ambivalent or avoidant in our attachment to our parents (depending mainly on our parents' availability and consistency). These styles then result in various tendencies to approach or avoid relationships. In general, those with secure attachments will approach others with low fears of intimacy and abandonment because they know they are lovable and others are trustworthy. Those who were anxious-ambivalents or abandoned by their caregiver in some way (through physical or psychological abandonment) will enter relationships with higher-than-average fears of abandonment and moderate fears of intimacy. These are the people who badger their partners with love. They're overly attentive and overly jealous and get their self-esteem from their romantic partners. They're the ones who call you in the middle of the night to see if you will go drive by their partners' house with them to “see if they're okay” (read, to see if they're dating someone else, dead, angry with them, breaking up with them, etc.). These romantic partners are called pre-occupieds, for their obvious preoccupation with their romantic partners. The last category of individuals, avoidants, were probably role reversed by their caregivers. In other words, they had parents who were immature or needed attention and assistance in childlike ways that forced the child to grow up too soon and basically parent the parent. Because these folks learned that attachment meant loss of identity (their identity revolved around caregiving others), their greatest fears are of intimacy while they are simultaneously afraid of abandonment (their caregivers were not available to parent them while they were taking care of their parent). Ultimately, these styles attract each other in a multitude of ways (although preoccupieds and avoidants drive each other nuts, they are particularly well suited to each others' childhood attachment styles) and play out in various ways. This book explores (in Chapter 4) how these attachment styles play out. Never fear, we will talk about ways in which romantic partners' attachment styles can ultimately override the parents' influence.

    Besides focusing almost exclusively on families and communication, this book also talks a lot about children and their role in the development of the family. What happens when we add children to the married couple (Chapter 5)? Is it true that most couples experience a decrease in marital satisfaction following the birth of a child? How do marital partners manage the sixfold increase in workload that accompanies the birth of a baby? In what ways do new communication patterns with the infant develop? What happens when we add new siblings? How does a family deal with the unique challenges of adolescent children? My two stepsons are 19 and 15. They have taught me a lot about what it means to parent teenage boys. They have both given their permission for me to use their stories to bring life to this book.

    How do we raise our children to be socioemotionally competent individuals who contribute to society (Chapter 6)? In what ways do parenting styles contribute to the physical, socioemotional, and academic development of the children? In keeping with the theme of this book on nurturing and controlling communication, parents are typically seen to vary along the two dimensions of responsiveness (nurturing) and demandingness (control). Authoritative parents are both responsive and demanding, providing high standards for their children in a loving environment. These parents foster many positive socialization outcomes in their children in terms of selfesteem, social competence, and academic development. Authoritarian parents, by contrast, are highly demanding but not highly nurturing. These parents place many structured demands on their children under the auspices of “parental authority.” As you might suspect, children often chafe under this harsh form of parenting and do less well on socialization outcomes. Finally, permissive parents are highly responsive but not very demanding. In this way, they exert little control over their children but provide a warm and nurturing environment. Again, children of permissive parents do not thrive as well on socioemotional outcomes.

    The Unique Role of Communication in Families

    Highlighting communication specifically, this book also considers the unique role of communication in helping to maintain intimacy and closeness in the family in the face of opposing needs for autonomy (Chapter 7). Although closeness and intimacy have been related to greater marital satisfaction, individual members of a family also have a need for self-directed behavior. These two needs often oppose one another and cause conflict, which is discussed in Chapter 8. This chapter examines the inevitability of conflict and the role that communication plays in either escalating or de-escalating conflict and conflict outcomes. Conflict styles and their relationship to the stability of marriage are also considered. Furthermore, constructive conflict (leading to more positive outcomes such as closeness) is differentiated from destructive conflict (leading to harmful outcomes) through the use of various interpersonal models of conflict. This chapter also explores the growing tendencies for violence in our society. This chapter presents profiles for the batterer and battered as well as the reasons why folks stay in these highly destructive relationships.

    Chapter 9 considers the role that important family members can play in trying to get their family members to stop problematic behavior. Many families currently face challenges with substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression. All these problems promote internal stress within the family unit. Inconsistent nurturing as control theory explains the paradoxes that exist in the relationship between the healthy family members and the unhealthy family member and how these relationships play themselves out in ways that might not promote the most effective behavioral resistance strategies. In other words, family members of substance abusers, those with eating disorders and depression may behave in inconsistent ways surrounding the problematic behavior. Finally, Chapter 10 attempts to integrate the material across the topics discussed in the book: definitions, family forms, family theories, mating, adding children, socializing children, intimacy and autonomy dialectic, conflict and violence, and assisting problematic behavior. Following a review of the literature presented throughout this book, it is concluded that family communication research offers two principles of family communication: (a) perception is reality (or how you perceive your family members affects how you communicate with them and how they communicate with you and, ultimately, reinforces your original perception) and (2) the golden rule of communication (or how you communicate profoundly affects the ways in which others in your family communicate with you).

  • Glossary

    abandonment fear: the level of anxiety one experiences about potentially being left by one's relationship partner.

    anorexia: characterized by extreme fasting, a refusal to maintain a normal body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a significant disturbance in one's body evaluation.

    anxious-ambivalent attachment (parental): has low trust in others and feels negatively about self.

    artifacts: communication through the use of physical objects.

    attachment style: a working model or orientation toward bonding in relationships.

    attention-gaining cues: aimed at increasing the recognition and interest of others.

    attraction: forces that pull two interacts toward one another.

    attributed communication: where the receiver attributed communicative intent where there was none.

    authoritarian parent: positioned at the intersection of high demandingness/control and low responsiveness/warmth; overtly attempts to shape, control and evaluate the behavior of the child in accordance with an absolute standard of conduct from some higher authority (e.g., religion).

    authoritative parent: attempts to be both nurturing and warm (responsive) and highly controlling (demanding) of has or her children's behavior.

    autonomy: having an independent sense of self, directing one's own behavior, controlling one's own activities.

    avoidant attachments (parental): has low trust in others and feels positive about self.

    back stage: where one does not feel the pressure to perform a primary role.

    battered woman's syndrome/learned helplessness: women in violent relationships feel that they are responsible for the abuse they receive and that they are unable to do anything about it.

    behavior: actions that were not intended to communicate and no intention was perceived.

    behavior control: setting guidelines and disciplining.

    binuclear families: families in which children share their time relatively equally between their mother and stepfather's and father and stepmother's houses.

    biological ties: genetic links between family members. blended families: families that include legal-only (e.g., stepparents), biological only (e.g., parents) and some biological-legal (e.g., half-siblings) relationships.

    boundary maintenance: deciding who is in or out of one's family circle.

    bulimia: involves cycles of binge eating, followed by compensatory purging behaviors to prevent weight gain.

    chronemics: communication through the use of time.

    climate: the pleasantness or unpleasantness of interactions typically set by the nature of the nonverbal and verbal communication used. closeness: refers to psychological distance in the relationship, with couples experiencing closeness feeling less psychologically distant from one another and couples not experiencing closeness feeling greater psychological distance from their partners.

    coercive communication model: argues that the batterer is attempting to coerce his/her partner and when attempts fail, violence occurs. cognitions: thoughts—includes perceptions, attributions, evaluations, and expectations.

    cohabiting couples: opposite-sex partners living together but are not married.

    cohabitating parent: a parent who is now cohabitating but not married.

    communication attempts: communication where the sender intended to send a message but it was not received.

    communication: messages that are typically sent with intent between two or more persons, messages that are typically seen as intentional, and messages that have consensually shared meaning.

    communicative intent: the goal to send a message.

    competence: ability to complete tasks well.

    complementary roles: roles with behaviors that help facilitate the opposite role (e.g., nurturer vs. resource provider).

    conflict: “struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce rewards, and interference from the other parties in achieving their goals” (Hocker & Wilmot, 2000, p. 9).

    conflict interaction: the interpersonal influence strategies, tactics, and communication patterns that individuals use during the conflict itself.

    conservative explanation for family “decline”: argues that the breakdown in two-parent families, which is accompanied by divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and father absence, has put children at greater risk of school failure, unemployment, and antisocial behavior.

    constructive conflict: conflict that builds on the strengths of the relationship (i.e., enhances closeness, increases understanding, results in a net gain in positive feelings).

    contempt: expressions of extremely negative affect toward a partner; often includes psychological abuse and intentional insults.

    content invalidation: conflict strategies that reject the arguments put forth by the other.

    content validation: conflict strategies that accept the arguments put forth by the other.

    contradiction: refers to the unity of opposites in that two concepts are wed together at the same time that they compete with, or diminish, one another.

    control: communication that guides, influences, and limits the types of behaviors evidenced by family members.

    control (theory function): help to control outcomes.

    criticism: negative evaluations and attacks on the partner's behavior and personality.

    decision making: choosing among options available to the family.

    Defense of Marriage Act: gives all states the right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages from other states and defines marriage as heterosexual unions for federal law purposes.

    defensiveness: self-justification of behavior in an attempt to maintain one's sense of self.

    depression: can result in feelings of hopelessness, guilt, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities (including sex), and decreased energy or fatigue.

    describe (theory function): answer the “what?” question.

    destructive conflict: conflict that is damaging to the relationship (e.g., results in hurt, reduces closeness, damages trust).

    developer: in charge of ensuring growth and development as a human across physical, social, emotional, and intellectual realms. dialectic model: explains how partners vacillate through periods of closeness and distance in relationships.

    distal context: the more historical factors that predict conflict.

    distal outcomes: the long-term consequences of the conflict that are either removed or delayed.

    emotional bids: a marital partner's direct or indirect request for attention, interest, conversation or emotional support.

    emotional development: growth with regard to appropriate rules and expressions for various emotions.

    evolutionary psychology: individuals are assumed to select partners who will enable their reproductive success and promote survival of their offspring.

    explain (theory function): answer the “why” question.

    extended families: families that include grandparents in residence.

    family communication: messages that are typically sent with intent, that are typically perceived as intentional, and that have consensually shared meaning among individuals who are related biologically, legally, or through marriage-like commitments and who nurture and control each other.

    family of origin: the family in which one grows up.

    family of procreation: a newly formed family.

    family systems theory: attempts to explain the communication between family members as a function of the systems theory concepts of interdependence, balance, equifinality, and wholeness.

    fearful (romantic): individuals who avoid relationships because they do not trust others and do not believe they are worthy of love.

    feedback: evaluative responses to performances.

    feminist view of family change: supports the family as an institution, but it also has an appreciation for modernity.

    financial organization: managing the funds available to the family.

    front stage: where a role is performed.

    frustration-aggression model: argues that when batterers become frustrated, this frustration gets channeled into violence.

    gay couples with children: same-sex couples (lesbians or gays) who are committed to one another with the same level of commitment as married individuals and assume the role of parent (nurturer/controllers) to at least one child.

    haptics: communication through the use of touch.

    health care provider: maintains family members' health through arranging for doctors' visits, applying bandages, dispensing medicine, and the like.

    homeostasis: emphasizes the balance that families attempt to achieve as they set about attaining goals such as well-raised children, social and emotional well-being, family satisfaction.

    INC (inconsistent nurturing as control) theory: argues that families that include a member who is out of control in terms of some undesirable behavioral tendency or another (e.g., drinking, eating disorder, gambling, violence, sex addiction), use nurturing as a way to control their family members.

    inconsistent nurturing as control theory: attempts to understand the paradoxes in a relationship that make it difficult for partners to assist their partners through substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and violence.

    infertility: inability to conceive after 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse.

    information: anything that reduces uncertainty.

    inputs: include the quantity and the difficulty level of the information a child is expected to understand.

    intellectual development: growth with regard to learning.

    interdependence: intricate and necessary interrelationships of family members; family members rely on one another to promote the functioning of the family.

    interpersonal model: argues that violence does not begin in all relationships with the batterer because the partner in this case provokes the violence.

    interrole conflict: when the performance of one role interferes with the performance of another role.

    intimacy fear: anxiety level one experiences regarding being smothered by one's relational partner's demands for closeness.

    kinesics: overall use of the body, including gestures and posture, to communicate.

    learned hopefulness: argues that women may stay in violent relationships because they are hopeful that their partner will eventually change his violent behavior.

    legal ties: connections among family members that are based on laws.

    liberal analysis of family change: argues that the negative effects of family change are the result of economic and structural changes that have placed new demands on the family while failing to provide necessary social supports.

    logical consequences: related to outcomes associated with a behavior but not naturally occurring.

    marital type:Traditionals hold conventional values, value stability over spontaneity, and are highly interdependent. Independents hold unconventional values, including that marriage should not constrain individual freedoms. Separates hold the viewpoint both of the traditional and the independent couples in that they have conventional values and value stability over spontaneity, but they do not believe in a high amount of interdependence among the couple.

    married couple with no children: two opposite-sex individuals who have legalized their commitment to one another through the bonds of marriage but who have no children.

    naive theory of affection: siblings perceive the affection that parents have as a finite resource that must be competed for.

    natural consequences: the direct and contingent effects of a behavior.

    negative strategies: content invalidation, other accusations, and self-defense\.

    nuclear: with two parents, who may or may not be working outside the home, and children residing together.

    nurture, nurturing: both verbal and nonverbal behaviors that are encouraging and supportive; encouraging physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth.

    other accusations: conflict strategies that invalidate and disconfirm the other through attempts to negate the other.

    other support: conflict strategies that validate and confirm the other through acknowledgement, recognition, and endorsement. outputs: include the number of, and level of sophistication of, the products that are completed by the child.

    paradox: contains two consistent premises that contradict the logical conclusion.

    parenting practices: patterns of communication behavior parents use to enact parenting styles, specifically aimed at guiding the development of the child.

    parenting styles: patterns of responsiveness (high or low) and demandingness (high or low) that parents adopt in their interactions with their children.

    performance expert: people to consult for advice about performing a particular role.

    performances: all behaviors associated with a particular role. permissive parent: positioned at the intersection of high responsiveness/warmth and low demandingness/control; behaves in nonpunitive, accepting, and affirmative ways toward their child's actions, impulses, and desires. physical growth and development: bodily development.

    positioning for courtship: Placing one's body in relation to significant others in order to exclude others.

    positive strategies: content validation, other support, self-assertions.

    predict (theory function): answer the “how?” question.

    pre-interactional factors: factors that predate your family relationship.

    preoccupied (romantic): a person is preoccupied with others to determine his or her own sense of self-worth.

    provider: supplies the resources required to allow for the types of activities necessary to encourage growth and development; in charge of provision of resources, supplies the money, food, clothes and other durable items that maintain the household.

    proximal context: the more immediate factors preceding the conflict episode; goals, rules, emotions, and attributions that individuals make immediately prior to the conflict.

    proximal outcomes: the immediate consequences or results of the conflict. proximity: communication through the use of space. punishment: the presentation of aversive stimuli in contingent response to behaviors a parent wishes to eliminate.

    racial and ethnic endogamy: the tendency to marry within a group.

    receiver orientation: the receiver's perception of intent is more important than the source's intent to communicate.

    reciprocal roles: reciprocal role holders alternate complementary tasks so that each is performing only one role at a time.

    recognition or courtship readiness: indicates the communicator's interest and availability.

    relatedness: biological, legal, or marriage-like commitment.

    resolution: final stage of courtship, which includes sexual intercourse.

    role expectations: anticipated behaviors associated with a particular role.

    role reversed (parental): expected to give care to their caregivers.

    role strain: when one either feels uncomfortable with one's role or does not entirely know how to enact the behaviors associated with one's roles.

    roles: various positions we hold in relation to others.

    roles theory: assumes that the roles one holds are powerful dictators of the behaviors one enacts.

    rule: “a followable prescription that indicates what behavior is obligated, preferred, and prohibited” (Shimanoff, 1980, p. 57).

    rules theory: attempts to explain the rules—verbal and nonverbal—in communication.

    satisfying marriages: marriages that partners evaluate positively.

    secure attachment: has high trust in others and feels positive about self.

    self-assertions: conflict strategies that validate or promote the self.

    self-defense: conflict strategies that excuse or justify one's behavior.

    sender orientation: the source's intent to communicate is more important than the receiver's perception of intent.

    similarity hypothesis: Individuals have a strong desire to communicate with and be with other individuals whom they see as similar.

    single-parent homes: where children live with and are cared for by one parent only.

    skills deficits models: argue that violent partners lack the communication skills to deal with conflict, and thus, violence occurs.

    social development: becoming a socioemotionally competent communicator.

    social exchange theory: individuals consider the potential rewards of the relationship relative to its potential costs.

    social penetration theory: individuals in relationship development go through various communication phases, or stages, in their movement toward greater relationship stability.

    stable marriages: marriages that endure and do not end in divorce.

    stepfamilies: families that include some legal and some biological connectedness.

    stonewalling: responding to an onslaught of negative affect with withdrawal and flat facial affect.

    symmetrical roles: When two members of the same family perform the same role.

    true communication: the sender intended to send a message and the receiver perceived the intention of the communication.

    uncertainty reduction theory: predicts that the uncertainty associated with early stages of a relationship prompts increases in information gathering.

    vocalics: communication through the use of voice.

    wholeness: “the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts” (from family systems theory).

    wings: those areas where role holders prepare for their roles. working models: schemas about relationships.


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    About the Author

    Beth Le Poire is Professor of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her interests are in family communication and nonverbal communication, substance abuse, attachment, and stigma. She has published 45 articles and chapters, with recent publications in Human Communication Research, Communication Monographs, and the Journal of Applied Communication Research, and is coediting a volume on socially meaningful applied research in interpersonal communication. She received her PhD from the University of Arizona.

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