Family compentence

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					FAMILY COMMUNICATION COMPETENCE MODEL Toward a Teaching Model of Family Communication Competence

1. Introduction The purpose in developing a Family Communication Competence Model was to provide an organizing framework so we can better understand the relationship of various elements that contribute to communication competence. By building on the Interpersonal Communication Competence model, this paper lays out the major elements of the model in the family context. The elements include location, criteria, and components. This paper also describes how the model was used in a family communication class.

2. Definition Turner and West‟s (1998) define family as „as a self-defined group of intimates who create and maintain themselves through their own interactions and their interactions with others; a family may include both voluntary and involuntary relationships; it creates both literal and symbolic external and internal boundaries, and it evolves through time: It has a history, a present, and a future‟.

3. Purpose A model of family communication competence might help us to understand the relationship of various elements that contribute to communication competence; it might help us to develop more competent communication within the families. A model of family communication can help to navigate some of the controversy around the term competence. To us the term” competence” connotes ability or skill. “Communication competence” suggests communication skills and standards that produce desired outcomes. Thus, when considering family communication competence, our expectations may be a compendium of skills that will help us to enact family communication in a way that brings satisfactory outcomes.


Spitzberg and Cupach‟s (1983) component model of communication competence was chosen because of it usefulness and parsimonious. The model consists of two criterion outcomes: appropriateness and effectiveness, a contextual element, and three components that contribute to the probability of perceived competence: motivation knowledge and skills.

5. CRITERIA Criteria consist of the standards used to assess competence. Appropriateness and effectiveness are the encompassing elements of interpersonal communication competence. Appropriateness means enacting a behavior in a manner that fits the context. Context requires consideration of other relevant features that may define the rules for the interaction.

a) Appropriateness Appropriateness refers to the communication ability to meet the contextual requirements of a situation, and to the extent that interaction does not violate contextual and relational expectations, it is perceived as appropriate. Olson (2000) reinforces this point, namely that if „family expectations support more extreme patterns, families will then operate in a functional manner as long as all the family member like the family that way‟.

b) Effectiveness Effectiveness is defined as relative goal accomplishment, the extent to which preferable outcomes are achieved (Spitzberg, 1984). Effectiveness must be considered hand-in-hand with appropriateness in viewing family communication competence. An individual is more likely to achieve satisfactory outcomes if communication is appropriate and effective.

c) Location Location concerns the place within which competence resides (Spitzberg, 1994). Social unit refers to the family-system relationship under consideration. Clearly, considering the social unit within the family is important in deciding whether any communication skill is competent. Various life and family definitional type e.g. single parent family, extended family, blended families; etc stages provide different communication challenges.

6. COMPONENTS Spitzberg considered three core issues important regarding interpersonal

communication competence: motivation, knowledge and skills (Spitzberg, 1987, 1991, 1993). Motivation, knowledge and skills increase the likelihood that communication will be viewed as appropriate and effective in a given context. Motivation, knowledge and skills are viewed as additive, i.e. together they will increase perceived effectiveness (and appropriateness).

a) Motivation Spitzberg and Hecht (1984) view motivation as a function of perceived rewards and costs in a given conversational context with a specific other. A person‟s perceived desire to engage in conversation serves as an index to communication motivation. In their research, they found motivation along with skills to be the most important predictor of communication satisfaction. Indeed, if a teenager is withdrawn and taciturn, interaction is challenged. Whether or not this behavior is perceived as appropriate and effective depends on the circumstances. When conflict has escalated, a cooling-off period may be both appropriate and effective at that point in time.

b) Knowledge Knowledge is associated with the mental schemata in order to accomplish our desired ends. Duran and Spitzberg (1995) identified four mental processes associated with cognitive communication competence: anticipation of situational variables that have the potential to influence communication behaviors; perception of the consequences of one‟s choices; immediate reflection, and continued reflection upon the choices one has made.

c) Skills Skills include the abilities to act on motivation and knowledge. A member of family communication competence must grasp that, while skills and abilities may be useful in some contexts, their usefulness is situational dependent. Skills can contribute to fundamental competence, i.e. an individual‟s ability to achieve goals appropriately over time.

7. Teaching with the Model In order to evaluate the Family Communication Competence Model (FCCM) by using family communication class students as respondents, the researcher firstly needs to explain the different elements of the model beginning with criteria, moving to components, and finally location. At this point in the model‟s development, he must lay out the three main segments of the model linearly. After a lecture-discussion regarding the elements of the model and answering questions, he divided the class into small groups and provided various case studies with examples of family communication.

After reading through the cases, the students had to evaluate the competence shown in the example using criteria from the FCCM model. Third, the students were asked to identify the components and context that contributed to competence or lack of it. For the next step, students were asked to construct a three-dimensional model of the cases they discussed using different materials such as balloons, jelly beans, straws.

Finally, each small group had to explain their case, identifying various elements of the model, to the rest of the class. Finally, a survey is being conducted to the students with four Likert-type items and two open-ended questions for their input on the usefulness of the model.

8. Conclusion The purpose of developing interpersonal communication model to family

communication was to provide an organizing framework so we could better understand the relationship of various elements that contribute to communication competence. The main question might arise as to why a family focus is needed. A model of family communication competence could serve as an organizational framework to think about the complex subject and unique context of family communication. Families are a fundamental unit of all societies, and therefore, a particularly important context. Family is a unique context because of its, pervasiveness, permanence, longevity, role in developing identity, emotional engagement, potential intimacy, potential protectiveness, and function as a cultural conduit.

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