Family Comm 370

blended family
A household or family unit created by one male and one female and the children from their previous marriages and may include children from the present marriage.
committed partners
may include married couples who choose to remain child free or are infertile, cohabiting heterosexual couples, and gay male or lesbian partners who consider themselves a family
constitutive approach
communication can create or bring into existence something that has not been there before; in talk itself to create something new
discourse-dependent family
families who depend on communication to define themselves; the more discourse-dependent family is, the more members rely on communication strategies for external or internal boundary management
external boundary management
involves utilizing communication strategies to reveal or conceal information about the family to outsiders; strategies include labeling, explaining, legitimizing, and defending
A group of intimates who through their communication generates a sense of home and group identity, complete with strong ties of loyalty and emotion and experience a history and a future.
family of origin
The family in which one grows up, usually consisting of parents and siblings
internal boundary management
refers to the use of communication strategies to maintain members’ internal sense of we-ness; strategies include naming, discussing, narrating, and ritualizing
establishing the legitimacy of a request by appealing to authority or pointing out its consistency with existing values or norms.
open adoption
a type of adoption that involves direct contact between the biological and adoptive parents
primary parent system
Parent who takes full responsibility for meeting the child’s physical and emotional needs by providing the major part of the child’s care directly or by managing the child’s care by others or both.
relationship flourishing
reflects the current focus on well-functioning families that exhibit relationship strengths and how they harness such strength in face of life’s stresses; characteristics include intimacy, growth, and resilience, as well as a balance between focusing on family relationships and engaging the larger community
co-construction of meaning
permits learner to plan, choose, and evaluate knowledge in relation to personal needs and goals
Emotional bonding and feelings of togetherness that families experience
Any means by which an individual relates experiences, ideas, knowledge, and feelings to another; includes speech, sign language, body language, gestures, writing; the process by which meanings are exchanged between individuals through a system of symbols.
family images
metaphors used to describe relationship communication patterns. Represent the family’s worldview as they represent the family which create identity and boundaries. (i.e. my family is like a circus)
Ability to adapt to new circumstances.
intergenerational transmission
transfer of information from older generations to new the generation by means of relational processes.
Communication about the process of communication itself.
primary functions
(1) cohesion and (2)adaptability form a framework in which to view communication within various types of family systems.
relational dialectics
Seemingly opposing forces (openness-closedness, autonomy-connection, and novelty-predictability) that occur in all interpersonal relationships
secondary functions
supporting functions that give shape to family life: (1) family images (2)family themes (3) boundaries and (4) biosocial issues.
transactional communication
A dynamic process created by the participants through their interaction with one another.
A mental view or outlook.
boundary rule formation
factors that regulate the flow of information between and among others. Relies on six criteria (culture, self-esteem, gender, motivation, context, and the risk/reward ratio).
dialectical tensions
Relational tensions that arise when two opposing or incompatible forces exist simultaneously
concept that there are many different ways by which a system may reach the same end state
family system
Family viewed as a system that continually interacts with its members and environments; focuses on interactions and the changes they exert
interactional complexity
perspective that analyzes specific behavior patterns in terms of the interpersonal context in which they occur and to understand their meaning in light of the entire family system.
parts are so interrelated as to be dependent on each other for their functioning. (stipulates if one member fails/succeeds, the entire system will feel the effects.)
narrative coherence
all parts of the story are present and fit together.
narrative fidelity
implies that a story needs direct ties to social reality in order to resonate with listeners’ personal experiences and beliefs.
the interruption of the sequence behavior at intervals in order to give meaning or to indicate that “things started here”.
social constructionism
a view that says that much if not all of what we know and understand about the world, including scientific knowledge, is constructed through out social interactions and language.
symbolic interaction
A theoretical perspective in which society is viewed as composed of symbols that people use to establish meaning, develop their views of the world, and communicate with one another.
Legal Implications, Documentation, Language Shapes Reality
Why do we need a definition of family?
Systems Theory
Looks at how a family as a “group” functions together. If something happens to one person, it affects everyone in that group.

How elements work together to produce outputs from the various inputs they are given.

Levels include: Supra-system, System, and Sub-system.

the larger system in which the family is embedded such as the extended family or society more generally.
the family is one of these and operates in accord with many of the same principles as others; though it is often an open/ongoing system that takes input from the environment.
a smaller system within the family system as husband-wife or parent-child.
Wholeness, Interdependence, Openness, Patterns of Behavior, Homeostasis, Equifinality, Synergy
What are the primary assumptions of the Systems Theory?
Parts of system are less important than connectedness of parts.
Family is not just the individuals within it, acting in isolation. You can’t just study the individual because you want multiple perspectives of a family dynamic. There are differences in some parts.
Family must be experienced as an entirety to understand the various differences each individual has to make up the entire family dynamic.

Ex: daughter has an eating disorder. Father is glad she is receiving help and treatment because she needs it, but the rest of the family needs it as well. They need to know that she’s going to be okay because the eating disorder is not just isolated to the daughter as a problem, but rather, it affects the entire family.

Every part impacts other parts of system.
Much like the domino effect or ripples in a pond. Negative behavior of one person affects every other family member.

Ex: teenagers who have type 1 diabetes sometimes don’t feel like checking their blood-sugar levels, which drives their parents crazy. The teenager’s behavior is affecting the parents’ mood, which in turn affects the teen’s mood/attitude, which in turn affects everyone’s mood and health.

Free exchange of energy between system and environment. System must be open to feedback and change in order to thrive.

Ex: if a family member is addicted to something, the identity of the family is at risk, so other family members may try to “fix” or “manage” the problem on their own, rather than seeking alternative help and feedback because they don’t want to be embarrassed or destroy their identity. Not seeking feedback is detrimental to the family. (Think of Jacob and his family)

Patterns of Behavior
Behaviors become predictable and habituated over time. Family members can get stuck in established roles and often operate in ways that reinforce desired patterns.

Ex: you get stuck in a caregiver role which you were not expecting but you take it on anyways. Then you realize that you are having a difficult time managing the caretaker role with all the other stuff going on in your life.

Balance or tendency to bring parts of system back to “typical” or preferred level of functioning. Detecting problems to regain equilibrium. Rules for behavior, boundaries, patterns of communication across time. Families have this homeostasis, or level of functioning that they gravitate towards but it doesn’t always mean that this is healthy. Basically, families create rules/boundaries over time that become habitual. This is bad because sudden changes could be detrimental.

Ex: Family runs into financial issues. They are used to spending a lot and being “set” money wise but now they have to consolidate and spend less which may hurt their relationship.

Can achieve final objective in different, but equally valid ways. Parents often have a difficult time with this.

Ex: expressing affection in different ways. Parents who are perfectionists and don’t let children succeed in their own way (like chinese parents)

Ex: Science projects. you can tell which parents did the projects for their kids and which parents let their kids do the project on their own.

Can have positive or negative energy in a group that can shape the behavior/dynamics of the group and the individuals within it.

Ex: very similar to interdependence. If a father is addicted to alcohol, this may affect his children’s addiction or behavioral habits in the future. The kids may become addicted to alcohol like their father, to “ease” the pain that their father’s addiction brought on, or the kids may shy away from drinking altogether as it was a negative thing they experienced as a child.

Attachment Theory
Bonds that we form with others as a result of parenting practices. These bonds shape our identity and how we approach relationships.

Argues that the bond with the primary parent (mother) from birth is our primary attachment that is relatively stable across our lifespan.
An evolved behavioral system that motivates infants to seek proximity to care-givers in times of stress.
Ability to form intimate relationships/attachments is essential to personal and relational health.
Develop “internal working models”

Secure, Fearful, Dismissive, Preoccupied
Four Types of Attachments
Parent= Consistently supportive and loving.
Child= Positive self-worth, affectionate, able to handle ups and downs.

Impacts on Communication: friendly, affiliative, moderate disclosure.

Satisfaction in Married Couples: acknowledge distress and seek social support.

Fearful Avoidant
Parent=Negative or disconfirming, rejecting, or even abusive communication. Unpredictable–supportive one minute and unsupportive the next.
Child=Unworthy of love; others not loving; afraid of committment– fear that person won’t be there or stay with them, fear of getting hurt emotionally.

Impacts on Communication: Anxiety or fear of rejection in communication. Needs reassurance.

Satisfaction in Married Couples: Intense negative emotions and less frequent and intense positive emotions. Insecure. More likely to show heightened awareness and expression of negative feelings, learned as a way of maintaining contact with inconsistent caregivers.

Dismissive Avoidant
Parent= Disinterested, rejecting, emotionally unavailable, abusive, role reversals.
Child= Views others as unworthy of their love– relationships as undesirable, distancing, lack of commitment– too independent.

Impacts on Communication: unmotivated to maintain intimacy. Lower involvement.

Satisfaction in Married Couples: Having experienced rejecting and insensitive caregiving, tend to hold back their emotions in order to prevent a conflict with their partner– predicts marital satisfaction. Insecure.

Parent= Role reversals, abandons child emotionally.
Child= Positive view of others, negative view of self. Low self-esteem, absorbed with relationship, always feels the need to be in a relationship.

Impacts on Communication: Highly affiliative, too much disclosure/emotions.

Communication Privacy Management Theory (CPM)
About private information being shared.

-Based upon management of private info.
-Builds upon dialectal theory and systems theory. (Dialectal tension of openness and closeness. Levels of boundaries–but notion of boundaries is different.)
-Revealing info is risky–vulnerability (Expose self, potentially hurt relationship. Because revealing info is risky, people construct metaphorical boundaries around themselves).
-Boundary Structures (who is and who is not allowed to access info. Metaphorical boundaries that ebb and flow depending on the degree of risk revealing information).
-Rule Management Systems (decision rules to monitor flow of info. What info will be revealed to who and when).

People manage private info because it can make you vulnerable. The idea is that people own private info and it makes you vulnerable because their are risks involved if it is disclosed. So people create boundaries around themselves so the greater the risk, the tighter the boundaries become.

Social Exchange Theory
Based upon an economic model of rewards and costs. Assesses if rewards outweigh costs in relationship.
Extremely selfish view because it’s based on what’s best for self.
Based on personal motives–not what’s fair/equitable.
Also depends upon comparisons to others.
Equity Theory
Examines whether the distribution of resources in a relationship is fair/equitable–based on the premise of fairness.
All about equity. Looks at both people involved in relationship, rather than making it just “all about me”.
Determined by comparing ratio of contributions and benefits.
Overbenefitted, Underbenefitted, Equitable
Overbenefited Person
More benefits and less contributions to relationship.

Think about the lazy roommate. The lazy roommate is benefitting. they are sitting there watching you do the dishes. They should feel guilty, but sometimes people don’t feel guilty.

Underbenefited Person
More contributions and less benefits to relationship

You don’t feel appreciated or you feel under-appreciated because you are giving so much to your partner but they aren’t giving enough to you.

Equitable Relationship
Each person contributes and benefits from the relationship equally.
Comparison Level (CL)
Expectation of outcomes people think they should receive in a relationship.
Basically taking our own relationship and judging it with the standard of what we believe we deserve in a relationship.
Comparison Level Alternatives (CL-Alt)
-Percieved potential alternatives outside the relationship. (commitment level to partner).
-The lowest level of outcomes a person will accept in a relationship in light of availible opportunities in other relationships.
-The greater the outcomes exceed the CL-Alt (or what you get out of a relationship), the more committed to the relationship.
-Deals more with commitment and dependence power.
-If perceived to have a lot of alternatives, commitment will lessen.
-If few alternatives available, or you don’t want any alternatives, then commitment will be greater.
Investment Model
Tests why people stay in relationships, why people are committed to relationships, and why people are stable.
The greater the rewards, the fewer the costs, the more stable your relationship is.
African American Families
-Low Context/High PD
-Girls taught to be assertive and direct.
-Tend to be matriarchal, but somewhat authoritarian.
-Collectivism– group oriented families.
Latino Families
-Patriarchial and authoritarian– traditional gender roles.
-Strong emphasis on getting married and having children and a young age.
Asian Families
-High PD and High Context
-Everything is about the family/group– high expectations but also highly avoidant.
White Families
More egalitarian in parenting and more equality in gender roles (at least in theory)
Lesbian Families
-Intense closeness
-Low PD– equality in roles
-Partners and friends=support (Low UA)
Gay Families
-Less monogamous than lesbian
-Strong sense of self (individualistic)
-More affectionate than parents that are heterosexual.
Individualistic/Collectivistic, Power Distance, Context, Uncertainty Avoidance
Fundamental Dimensions of Cultures
-Focus: individual
-Value: initiative and dissent
-Independent: “I”
-Loyalty to self/immediate family

Ex: many current day americans are like this. Very self-oriented, less reliant on family for care.

-Focus: group
-Value: conformity
-Independent: “we”
-Loyalty to extended family and society.
-Putting family needs before your own.

Ex: coming out as gay is often shameful and damaging to the family and their identity.

Power Distance
Attitudes towards differences in authority.
Low PD
-Equally distributed
-Less comfortable being told what to do
-Less accepting of inequality
-We as americans tend to be this dimension
-More of a democracy. People share their ideas freely, don’t like being told what to do.

Ex: Equal gender roles in parenting, money-making, etc.

High PD
-More comfortable giving directions to others
-Accepting of inequality
-Family power–other countries

Ex: father authoritatively leads family, followed by eldest son. Using the phrase “ma’am” or “sir” in the south.

Low Context
-Most info in explicit messages (meaning of words is literal).
-Emphasis on verbals
-Value directness
-You’re not drawing from the context as much because people are drawing from the words being said.
-If you know me well enough, you shouldn’t have to ask.

Ex: think of black girls–taught to be very direct and assertive “it is what it is”

High Context
-Most info in context or person. Info is just simply understood.
-Emphasis on non-verbals.
-Value indirectness

Ex: You should know what I want. You should know the rules.

Uncertainty Avoidance
Level of acceptance of unpredictability.
Low UA
-High tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty
-More accepting of dissent
-Values change

Ex: The US is becoming this dimension. Accepting of gays (change), valuing differences, but not always valuing uncertainty.

High UA
-Low tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty
-Higher stress
-Strong need for consensus
-Values tradition

Ex: Chinese families need straight-forwardness.

Social Learning Theory
-“If-then” relationships
-People seek rewards and try to avoid punishments.
-Observational Learning
-Children often grow up and acquire basic values and personal habits by observing parents’ behavior, and later, the behavior of admired friends and reference groups. (Ex. often same political views as parents).
-Similarity between model and the observer: the more similar the model is to the observer, the more likely the observer is to enact the modeled behavior.
-Modeling is most successful when their are multiple models (3 family members are avid tennis players, the observer will most likely adopt the same love for tennis).
-Also keep in mind this explains the many functional/disfunctional aspects of family interaction (i.e. divorce taken in by children, addiction, etc.)
Processes/factors: attention, retention, reproduction, motivation
Process/Factors of Social Learning Theory
-Attention: paying attention to the model is a condition for learning.
-Retention: remembering what the model did is a condition for imitating the model’s behavior.
-Reproduction: people must have the capacity (e.g. skills) for imitating the behavior.
-Motivation: people must be motivated to imitate behavior (e.g. importance of model or reward).
Idiomatic Language
feature of the relational context and it is a tool used by insiders
Words or symbols that have been given a particular meaning or significance not shared by outsiders
Family as roles
Family to the degree that you feel and act like a family
Family as sociolegal expressions
Created by laws and regulations
Family as biogenetic relations
Can or have reproduced or share genes
External Boundary Management
1. Labeling connections for others
2. Explaining connections to others
3. Legitimizing our connections
4. Defending our connections
Internal Boundary Management
1. Naming one another
2. Discussing our lives and decisions
3. Narrating our identities
4. Ritualizing to tend to emotional business
Family realm
small, kinship-structured group whose primary function is nurturing socialization of newborn children
Textbook definition of family
Networks of people who share their lives over long periods of time bound by ties of marriage, blood, law, commitment, legal or otherwise, who consider themselves as family and who share a significant history and anticipated future of functioning as a family
“Normal families”
1. Normal families as asymptomatic family functioning
2. Normal families as average (typical or not unusual)
3. Normal families as optimal
4. Normal family processes (contemporary)
Symbolic, transactional process of creating and sharing meanings
Primary family functions
Cohesion & adaptability
Secondary family funtions
developing images, themes, boundaries, biosocial beliefs
Systems theory
-Nonsummativity/wholeness: ex. pancake mix
-dynamic homeostasis: how things operate, usually the same
-interdependence: 1 part affects the whole system
-open/closed systems: input/output
-self-regulating: loops, bring back traditions
-equifinality: more than 1 way to be a family
Two competing demands that can’t be met
Cohesion (y-axis)
1. Disengaged- separate
2. Connected- emotional independence
3. Cohesive- togetherness
4. Enmeshed- extreme closeness
Adaptability (x-axis)
1. Rigid- strict, authoritarian
2. Structured- some change, stable roles
3. Flexible- high change, shifting roles
4. Chaotic- high change, no leadership
Communication has both _____ and _____ meanings.
Content and relational (one up, one down, one across)
talking about talking
Relational dialectics
1. Autonomy/connection
2. Openness/closedness
3. Stability/change (managed in family through comm)
*No either/or, but both/and
Supporting functions
1. Establishing a satisfactory congruence of images
2. Evolving modes of interaction into central family themes
3. Establishing boundaries of the family’s world of experience
4. Managing significant biosocial issues of family life, such as gender, age, power, and roles
-Can be open, semi-permeable, or closed
-Internal and external
Privacy Information Management
Who says what, secrets, who gets to know what
Biosocial issues
Steve Duck
Everyday life is where the world happens. Today’s behaviors become the foundation for tomorrow’s assumptions
Often has historical-genetic or blood-tie foundation
What is social constructionism/ symbolic interactionism concerned with?
How we construct meaning
Social Construction proposition
1. People make sense of the world by constructing their own model of the social world and how it works
2. Language is viewed as critical to human society, therefore, conversation serves to maintain reality
Symbolic interactionism
Humans are:
1. Think/act according to meaning they attribute to actions
2. Motivated to create meanings to help them make sense of the world
*emphasis on social roles
Heart of symbolic interactionism
symbols/shared meanings & interactions/verbal and nonverbal communication
Meaning arises…
Through interaction, tied to discourse
Responses to dialectical tensions
Types of praxis
1. Selection- choose 1
2. Segmentation- separate tension
3. Neutralizing- diluting intensity of contrasting poles
4. Cyclic alternation- choose one pole or other (different times)
5. Reframing- transforming perceptions to see less difference
Narrative Theory
Narrative must be/display:
1. Structural coherence
2. Material coherence
3. Characterological coherence

1. Honest & plausible
2. Resonates with listeners

Boundary Rule Formation
1. Culture
2. Self-Esteem
3. Gender
4. Motivation
5. Context
6. Risk/reward ratio
Communication networks
Creates and reflects the interactive flow of messages among family members
High technology
Rely on technological connections to send messages
Face/voice network interactions
Rely on face-to-face and voice dependent interaction
All: –
Chain: – – – – – –
Wheel: *
Y network: Y
Communication roles
Shared understandings of what communication means and what kinds of communication are appropriate in various situations
Cycle of rules
1. Create expectations
2. Expectations are followed by behaviors
3. Responses to behaviors and expectations occur
4. Rules are changed or reinforced
Types of rules
– Relational rules: develop when people in relationships develop rules unique to their connection
– Constitutive rules: what counts as what
– Regulative rules: prescribe appropriate behavior
Types of secrets
– Sweet: fun
– Essential: necessary (finances, “mom & dad” things)
– Toxic: draining (alcoholism, drugs, infidelity)
– Dangerous: abuse, suicide threats
Functions of secrets
– Bonding: cohesiveness
– Evaluation: negative judgement
– Maintenance: stay close
– Privacy: nunya
– Defense: protect family
– Communication: limit openness
Functions of stories
– To remember
– To create belonging/identity
– To teach expected behavior
– To develop family culture
– To provide stability of generations
– To entertain
Relational Maintenance
Defined: The actions and activities for sustaining the desired qualities of the relationship.
1.) Keeping the relationship in existence (save it)
2.) Keeping the relationship in a specific state (status quo)
3.) Keeping the relationship satisfactory (always improve)
4.) Keeping the relationship in repair (scheduled maintenance)
Communication is the core of RM
Routine – you are use to standing up and doing the dishes
Strategic – you have thought ahead and wanted to give a gift to someone for a special reason
Marital/Partnership Maintenance
“Over time, romance moved into reality” – honeymoon over
The strategies can be used in any relationship
– Importance and intensity vary
What is the “5 to 1 ratio”?
– 5 positive messages for every 1 negative message
Relational Maintenance Behaviors
Positivity – cheerful and optimism, no criticism “try to be romantic, fun, and interesting with him/her. How is your day going?”
Openness – explicitly discussing relationship and sharing thoughts/feelings “simply tell him/her how I feel about the relationship”
Assurances – messages of affection, support, commitment “stress my commitment to him/her”
Networks – Family and friend activities “focus on common friends and affiliations”
Tasks – Fair share of work “help equally with tasks at hand, don’t shirk duties”
The other three included to make it 8, Understanding, Relationship talks, self-disclosure
Parent and Child Relational Maintenance
Responsibility for RM shift from vertical to horizontal to vertical over the life time
Highly complicated family structure requires more RM
(Shift through the life-cycle. Parents take care of kids, kids and parents together, then kids take care of parents)
Sibling or Step-Sibling RM
For most, this represents the longest lifetime relationship
The extent of the long term bond for siblings depends on the RM efforts
Myers, et al. (2001) found siblings use shared tasks most and openness last
Greater liking = more use of RM (5 core behaviors)
Overall Research Findings (Myers, 2001)
1.) female siblings use RM more than males
2.) intimate siblings use RM more than congenial (similar, not super close, but not distant) or apathetic (not super close)
3.) level of psychological closeness (how distant you perceive your sibling, are you close or not) changes use of RM (early to mid adulthood)
4.) more strategic than routine use of RM
Relational Maintenance Strategies: Confirmation
Communication recognition and acceptance of another human being (Cornerstone of RM)
Four Criteria (Sieburg, 1973)
1.) Acknowledge existence of other person
2.) Affirming by responding relevantly
3.) Reflecting and accepting the other’s self-experience
4.) Suggesting a willingness to become involved
RM Strategies Confirmation
– Willingness to be involved with the other “I Miss you”, “Nice boots”
– Interactive involvement between two or more “What do you think?”
– Allows others to be themselves “working to understand other’s perspective” “Can you explain a little more?”
Relational Maintenance Strategies: Respect
Acting in a way that demonstrates honor and care for another.
Supporting another’s choice, values, and actions.
1.) Equality/Mutuality
– Horizontal relationship with respect and treating the other with value
2.) Caring/Supportive
– Thoughtful, considerate, and designed to ‘lift up’ another
Relational Maintenance Strategies: Rituals
Convey messages and meanings in emotionally powerful patterns. Reminds family members who they are and how much they care about each other.
Family Rituals: conscious repetition of actions and words that creates meanings
Range from cultural connections to family specific to everyday behaviors
1. Family Celebrations (cultural norms, Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner)
2. Family Traditions (unique to the family, Grandmother teaching granddaughter to bake)
3.) Patterned Family Interactions (everyday, who makes breakfast in the morning, we all pray together as a family)
Relational Maintenance Strategies: Couples Rituals
Typology of rituals for couples:
1. couple time
2. Idiosyncratic/symbolic (private codes or rituals)
3. daily routines/tasks
4. intimacy expressions
5. communication (couple talk time)
6. Patterns/habits/mannerisms (side of bed)
7. Spiritual (religious needs)
Relational Maintenance Strategies: Inter-generational Rituals
Rituals can involve parents, children, grandparents, and other relatives (Dads homemade chicken noodle soup)
Relational Maintenance Strategies: Additional Research
Rituals may be good for your physical and emotional health
Ceremonials involve elaborate preparation and several rituals
Negative rituals: difficult to identify due to low self-report.
– Alcoholic members, partner abuse, incest, verbal mistakes
Negative ritual: kids watering down the liquor so their parents don’t get too drunk)
Relational Maintenance Strategies: Relational Currencies
RC: communication behaviors that carry meaning about the affection or caring
– the meanings can strengthen or weaken the relationship
Arise from family of origin patterns
Currencies can be direct statements or require more interpretation
Ex: wickie wacky cake – gives her husband a cake to show she is happy.
Types: positive verbal statements, self-disclosure, listening, nonverbal affect displays, touch, sexuality, aggression, gifts, money, food, favors, service, staying in touch, time together, access rights.
Meanings and Currencies
Perceptions of the relational currency exchange process change the relational satisfaction
Without common meanings, we feel rejected or taken for granted
Routine currencies can become strategic (holding a hand to get out of a fight)
a feeling of closeness and disconnectedness that develops through communication between partners or groups.
Marital and Family Intimacy
Marital Intimacy
1. Close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship.
2. Detailed and deep knowledge and understanding (a familiar experience)
3. Sexual relations
Family Intimacy
1. Close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship.
2. Detailed and deep knowledge and understanding (a familiar experience)
3. Interpersonal devotion along intellectual, emotional, and physical dimensions.
Personal Commitment: Intense singular energy directed towards sustaining a relationship
What are the 2 types of commitment? Moral (obligation to partner) and Structural (barriers to leaving or absence of alternatives)
Constraints: factors that keep people together regardless of devotion – finances, religion, values, family & social pressures, children, pets.
Intensity (asserting firmly), Repetition (reaffirming the phrase), Explicitness (reduces misunderstandings), and Codification (explicit comm/love letters, written rules)
Self-Expression: Disclosure
Self-Disclosure: occurs when one person intentionally tells another person highly personal or private information about him or herself that the other would not discover in a different manner.
Self Disclosure involves risk, but intimacy develops when the “other” is responsive.
– Inter-subjectivity: Communicator’s access to each other’s thoughts and feelings.
A verbal or nonverbal response is necessary to convey validation, understanding and caring
Trust: the emotional basis where emotional safety allows you WANT to self-disclose.
Mental Love Maps: Self-disclosure creates the maps to permit access to deeper parts of his/her life.
Too much or too little or negative disclosure can result in higher levels of conflict, hurt, and anger.
Self-Expression: Nonverbal Affection
Nonverbal Affection can accompany or substitute for verbal self-disclosure. Examples: back rubs, hand-holding, intense stares, kisses, etc.
Family Background
Family-of-origin experiences, cultural heritage, and gender all set expectations that influence family self-expression behaviors.
Partner Relationships
Involves disclosure of one partner and the listeners responses perceived as supportive, constructive, and accepting.
Partner responsiveness is linked to satisfaction and development of relationships
Agreements on whether and how to share to others, Ex: Infertility.
Parent-Child Relationships
Revealing self-disclosure does not involve all family members equally.
– mothers typically receive more self-disclosure
– parent perceived as nurturing and supportive receive more
Smaller families usually remain more interconnected (all members connected)
Moving away used to mean reduced interaction. Why has this changed? Technology?
Managing Privacy Boundaries and Disclosure
Debriefing Conversations: talking about how their day unfolded
– gives a good framework to discuss riskier topics
– leads to higher marital satisfaction
Breaking privacy boundaries leads to reduced disclosure
Sibling disclosures increases as children age and learn to share significant feelings as well as protect confidence
Boundaries and Disclosures have direct links to family levels of cohesion and flexibility
Sexuality and Communication
Sexual Communication: “people exchanging verbal and nonverbal messages in a mutual effort to co-create meaning about sexual beliefs, attitudes, values and/or behavior.”
Sexually healthy adult partnerships require more than just physical performance:
– sexual identities, history of sexual issues, mutual perception of each other’s needs, feelings for their partner, messages within sexual expressions, & nature of sexual communication.
— These characteristics influence overall sexual patterns and the day to day expressions you have with your partner.
Partner Sexual communication
Partners establish their own patterns of sexual activity early in the relationship.
Open communication is critical for both individuals.
Monological & Dialogical Sex
Monological Sex – one or both partners attempt to satisfy only their personal needs
Dialogical Sex – concern and sharing of pleasure (requires effective sexual communication). They are able to discuss issues, feelings, frequency, techniques, and avoid mind reading.
Sexual Comm early in the relationship does not predict future Sexual Communication (aging, health concerns, stress, loss, etc.)
“For couples desiring an intimate relationship, open and direct communication about sexuality may deepen their intimacy even during times of struggle”
Parent-Child Communication about Sex
Discussions on sexuality support a sense of family connectedness.
– These discussions are occurring more frequently now, why? Due to Greater society openness, media treatment of sexuality, concerns for sexual health, higher levels of parent willingness to discuss it.
Mother discuss more frequently than fathers and more often with daughters.
Mother-daughter discussions on condoms report more consistent use.
Fathers discuss resisting pressures and understanding men, when talking to daughter.
Effective Parent-Child Communication about Sex: (Warren & Neer)
– Satisfaction with family discussion about sex is dependent on mutual dialogue (child and parent involvement)
– The ability to communicate supportively about sex revolves around an attitude of openness. Talk with, not at.
– For greater impact, start discussing early and often (before 16)
– Children model the patterns found in their homes and will be similar with their partner.
Sexually Neglectful Families: Sex is seldom or never addressed
Sexually Abusive Families: Perpetrator – victim interaction pattern with limited communication.
Sexually Healthy Families: Respect both genders, boundaries are appropriate and supportive, effective and flexible communication, shared system of culturally relevant values.
3 Intimacy Factors
3 Factors for Intimacy
Effort: Required because many factors compete for attention in life (work, school, families, etc.)
Sacrifice: Choosing to give up something in order to benefit another person
Forgiveness: Relational process in which harm is acknowledged by one or both parties; the harmed party extends mercy to the transgressor, one or both experience a transformation from a negative to positive state and the relationship is reconciled.
Barriers to Intimacy
Building marital and familial intimacy involves effort and risk.
Barriers to Intimacy: Jealousy
Jealousy: Aversive emotion that may involve negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, anger, sadness, and fear induced by the threat or actual loss of a relationship.
– Some view this as a sign of affection.. can turn violent or obsessive and create barriers to intimacy.
Barriers to Intimacy: Deception
Deception: Communicating or withholding information intentionally for the purpose of creating a false belief.
– Trust is a hallmark of intimacy and deception violates this expectation.
Family Roles
Reoccurring patterns of behavior developed through the family members’ interactions enacted to fulfill family functions
– Reciprocal roles (you can’t be a dad without a child, sibling without another sibling)
Role Enactment
Actual performance of role.
Choosing to enact one role may impact ability to enact another role (e.g., women in the workforce)
What is a superdad? involved in a lot of different aspects. Goes to work, plays with kids, does the housework and cooking, etc. Do we need a superdad title or isn’t that just what we expect out of being a parent/adult. There is no term for supermom, but we have one for dads.
Role Expectations
Models & norms of how roles should be enacted
“Good son” “Bad Mother”
–What exactly is a good son or bad mother?
Informed by cultural expectations
Reflect an imagined view of yourself
What are the differences in messages men and women receive about work and family?
Have these messages changed? Stayed the same?
Bidirectional merging of roles of work life and family life
Role Negotiation
Coordination of multiple roles
– Done in conjunction with others to give meaning to the roles
How do the roles of husband and wife change when a child is born?
– Research shows it goes from 50-50 to household chores to 70-30 household chores once the kid is born. Old days: men work form sun up to sun down, women’s work is never done.
Role Conflict: when others have different expectations of the way a person should perform a role.
McMaster Model of Family Functioning
1. Providing adult sexual fulfillment and children’s gender socialization
2. Providing nurturing and emotional support
3. Providing for individual development
4. Providing for kinship maintenance & family maintenance
5. Providing basic resources
The Role Appropriation Process
How do family members learn, demonstrate, adjust or relinquish these role functions?
Three Part Process: role expectations, role enactment, role negotiation
Couple Oriented Typologies
Fitzpatrick’s Couple Types
– 8 significant factors that affect role enactment
3 Couple Types:
– Traditional: conventional belief system
– Separates: maintain distance
– Independents: autonomous but share
– Mixed: Combination of the 3 types
~ 60 percent pure, 40 percent mixed.
~~20% traditional, 17% separate, 22% independent
Gender-Organized Couple Types
All regarding the division of labor
Post Gender Couples: Moved past gender, not based on gender expectations “Dad, Mom, and kids all working on dinner”
Gender Legacy Couples: Do not recognize but default to gender stereotypes
Traditional Couples: Use gender as the conscious method “we share the work, I make the messes she cleans it up”
Family Typologies
* Look at Family Typologies in book pg 176
“Conceptualized as the ability (potential or actual) of an individual to change the behavior of other family members” (pg 181)
Operates Transactionally:
– does not belong to an individual
– negotiated in a relationship between 2 or more people
What are some factors that influence power within the family structure? Income, gender, culture, education
Aspects of Power in Family Systems
Power Bases: Resources used by family members that allow them to attempt to exert control in a specific situation
1. Normative: family values & cultural/societal
2. Economic – monetary control
3. Affective – relational currencies the family nurtures
4. Personal – individual characteristics
5. Cognitive – intelligence to gain power
* No family member possess all 5 equally or uses all in a situation/certain person
Aspects of Power in Family Systems
Power Process: how power is used in family interactions
– effective communicators (influence, persuasion & assertiveness)
– Non verbal’s (The Look parents give to kids, standing over someone else like a boss’ setting)
– Ill or dysfunctional members – alcoholic family members. They tend to control the family due to their uneasiness, no one wants to make them upset or violent.
Power Development: Marriage & Power
One-spouse dominant: Male or female controls all family power
Syncratic: shared authority and joint decision making
Autonomic: divide authority for equal but different areas
Power Development: Children & Power
Parenting Styles
1. Authoritarian: Demanding, directive, & non-responsive (the dictator)
2. Permissive: undemanding, non-directive, & responsive (the friend)
3. Authoritative: demanding, directive, & responsive (the mentor)
Occurs when family members use their power to try to change or modify each other’s behaviors or beliefs
– Uses interpersonal compliance seeking messages (Influence Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini, Foot in the Door, Door in the face Strategies)
Certain influence strategies are more likely to be used in specific situations.
– Again, foot in the door, door in the face.
– 11 different strategies (in class Direct Requests, Bargaining, Hinting, were the top 3 influences)
Decision Making
Process by which family members make choices, reach judgments, or arrive at solutions.
– Whole family or family subgroups
– Instrumental (where we go to dinner, every day decisions) or Effective (are we going to church, will we help that poor man)
– Developed a highly predictable DM style over time
— Which parent to ask for permission
Power, influence and decision making are closely tied together in families.
Types of Decision-Making Processes
1.) Consensus: Discussion until agreement is reached (everyone agrees)
2.) Accommodation: Consent to the decision. Not because agreeing but see additional discussion as being unproductive
3.) De Facto Decisions – without direct family approval (mom makes an executive decision on what kids get for Christmas)
Phases in Decision-Making
Most families decision making goes through a series of phases to reach a satisfactory or unsatisfactory decision
The Problem Solving Loop – shaped like an upside down breast cancer ribbon (page 200)
Factors Affecting Decision-Making
Decisions are never as simple as they appear
– the process may be short circuited at any point
– a family may reach a decision by skipping steps
– it may be hard to figure out which phases are being used in the decision-making process
– some families tend not to follow steps in problem-solving
Many Factors Affecting Decision Making
Factors Affecting Decision Making:
– Children
– Gender Influences
– Individual involvement
– Outside Influences
family origin
earliest/most important influence which creates foundation for our identity and development. Socialized within this environment.
family dynamics
how we relate to each other
some variables that influence family dynamics
ages, # in fam, social class, culture, where everyone lives
Family systems theory
something that happens in the family has a ripple effect on the whole family
what effects one person in family effects all members
whole family is greater than the sum of its parts. if you take out a fam member the family property has changed
patterns/ self regulation
patterns that make life predictable and manageable
maintenance feedback
give feedback to maintain status quo – don’t want to rock the boat
change feedback
not welcomed happily. harder than maintenance feedback
Interactive complexity/punctuation
actions function as responses to previous actions. punctuation decides where did it start/end and how do we solve
a particular final state (grieving) can be accomplished in diff ways
use same process but results in different outcomes (parents raise kids all same way and kids not all the same personin the end)
Relational Dialects
emphasis on managing tensions or contradictions in relationships (stability-change, openness-closed, predictability- novelty, autonomy-connection, joy-despair)
Management strategies (5)
Selection, segmentation, neutralizing, cyclic alteration, reframing
making a choice between opposites / excluding one over the other
separate or uncouple the opposites (by topic, activity, context)
dilute intensity / compromise / stay in middle
cyclic alteration
choose one of the opposites at various times
transform the meaning so opposites do not create tension
feelings of closeness and connectedness / communication with others. Being there for family (cognitive, physical, emotional). Where attachment begins. Ability to perform family roles impacts intimacy & closeness.
Relational maintenance
addressing/attending to everyday activities. keeps relationship in existence/connected and repairs if not in satisfactory condition. sets stage for intimacy. Acceptance/respect, confirming messages/positivity, relational currencies, fam rituals, storytelling/narratives
relational currencies
communication behaviors that carry meaning about the affective dimension of human relationships (food, gifts, favors, listening)
begins with intimacy. the emotional bond to another person
singular energy needed to sustain a relationship
intentionally telling another person private info. needed for relationship to grow. Involves 1. Risk 2. Trust 3. Reciprocity. associated with positive outcomes.
work needed to sustain relationships
internal change of heart, to engage the positive and abandon the neg.
aspects of life perceived as having a spiritual equality or sig
intentionally withholding info to create false belief
personal commitment
internal dedication/devotion
constraint commitment
something is keeping the two people together (kids keeping parents from divorce)
Reciprocal (siblings)
close in age, peer like, similar interests
Complementary (siblings)
further apart in age, older siblings in caregiving role
role expectations
societal models and norms (perceptions)
role enactment
also called role performance (behaviors)
role negotiation
managing all your roles over time (change)
tangible support
provides needed goods/ services
emotional support
expressions of caring, concern and empathy (ex: offers support and positivity)
informational support
advice, input and feedback
esteem support
expression of regard for the other persons skills and values as a person through involvement, attendance, and encouragement of the persons activities. (ex: attending sporting events or their school musical. give compliments)
network support
sharing a sense of belongingness by having an interest in the same issues and concerns (introduce others to ur friends)
emotional bonding family members have toward each other
supporting functions
giving shape to family life- establishing family images, evolving family themes, establishing boundaries, managing biosocial issues
things, feelings, or ideas are used to create meanings and messages.
transactional communication
mutual influence and interactions
social constructionism
members co-construct their social realities through conversation
realistic, meaningful, free of inconsistencies
truthful, reliable
family’s relational culture
every family creates its own identity through patterned interactions
messages of recognition, dialogue, and acceptance
family rituals
a symbolic form of communication acted out in systematic fashion. Rituals shape family identity and reflect relational culture.
family roles
patterns of behavior developed through family interaction used to fulfill family functions

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