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Communication Theory and The Family

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					Communication Theory and The
          Family




  Fitzpatrick, M. A., & Ritchie, L. D.
(1993). Communication Theory and the
Family. In P. G. Boss, W. J. Doherty, R.
LaRossa, W. R. Schumm, & S. K.
Steinmetz (Eds.), Sourcebook of family
theories and methods: A contextual
approach (pp. 565-585). New York:
Plenum Press.
    The Academic Discipline of
         Communication
 Develop testable hypotheses in order to
  understand the production, processing,
  and effects of symbol and signal systems.
 It focuses on one category of behavior --
  communication -- across many levels of
  analysis.
 There are various distinctions (e.g., mass
  communication versus interpersonal,
  applied versus theoretical).




                               Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
  Mass Communication Research

 Early theoretical interests: propaganda
  and persuasion; free expression and
  regulation; political participation;
  influence of technology.
 Influence on discipline:
    Increased popularity of television.
    Fear about unethical persuasion techniques.
 Research on families compared the
  influence of families to the influence of
  television.




                                      Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
   Interpersonal Communication
             Research
 Early research focused on characteristics
  of speakers, seeking to understand
  variables associated with
  persuasiveness.
 Contemporary research examines factors
  which influence interpersonal
  communication.




                               Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
                     Terms
 Definition of Human Communication
    Dimensions of communication:
      Symbols: something that can be used to
       represent something else.
      The medium for transmitting symbols.
      Cognitive processes which influence
       transmission and interpretation of symbols.
      Social norms which govern meaning.
 Two Key Communication Constructs
    Intersubjectivity: sharing of cognitions in a
     communicative event. There are three ways
     intersubjectivity may affect communication:
      Communication may require a shared set
         of meanings.
      Communication may occur in the context of
         shared relationship norms.
      Communication may lead to a shared set of
         ideas about the environment.
    Interactivity: the degree to which symbol
     creation and interpretation are linked. This
     requires encoding by the sender and decoding
     by the receiver(s).
                                       Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
  Code Model I: The Strong Code
             Model
 Communication is linear.
 Words and meanings are mapped in a
  simple one-to-one correspondence with
  “meanings.” A dictionary is a “codebook.”
 Communication failure is attributed to
    incompetent coding,
    incompetent decoding,
    or degradation of the signal (a/k/a/ “noise”).
 Implication of this model: limited
  opportunity to distinguish family
  communication from other forms.




                                       Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
  Code Model II: The Weak Code
             Model
 Early computer translation experiments
  discovered that natural language is
  ambiguous and nonlinear.
 This refined model was more elaborate; it
  recognized that each symbol can have
  multiple meanings.
 A decoder is responsible for interpreting
  the meaning of the message.
 Implication of this model: limited
  opportunity to distinguish family
  communication from other forms.




                               Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
         The Inferential Model
 Fundamental assumption: many, if not most,
  symbols are ambiguous.
 Communicative act requires the speaker to
  direct attention toward facts from which certain
  inferences are likely to be drawn.
 Communication occurs when
    one person produces some representation of
      their thoughts,
    and anther person constructs a mental
      representation of that representation.
 Comprehension is dependent on knowledge of
  goals and plans of participants in the
  interaction. We supply information from our
  knowledge.
 Implication of this model: opportunity to develop
  unique theories of family communication which
  requires that we account for the influence of
  distinguishing family features on
    family members’ expectations;
    structure of relevancies within the family;
    and how family context shapes perception.

                                     Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
    Metaphor 1: The Family is a
        Private Miniculture
 Family culture is created and sustained
  through communication.
 Emphasizes knowledge, ideology, rules,
  values, and day-to-day rituals.
 Although families are private cultures, it is
  still possible to identify predictable
  patterns in families.
 Influenced by symbolic interactionism.
 The relational typology (see
  FITZ2&3.DOC for a typology and
  research about marital satisfaction):
    Measures relational (e.g., traditionalism) and
     information exchange aspects of
     communication (e.g., sharing, and conflict
     avoidance).
    Most research has been conducted with
     couples residing in the same house, although
     limited research has been conducted on
     cohabiting heterosexual and homosexual
     couples.
                                      Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
    Metaphor 1: The Family is a
    Private Miniculture (cont.)
 Family communication patterns:
    Examines the influence of communication on
     shared understanding between family
     members.
    Research often emphasizes the influence of
     family structure on communication.
    Accuracy: match between impression of one
     person and the thoughts of another.
    Congruency: first person presumes that the
     second person thinks in a compatible way.




                                   Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
    Metaphor 1: The Family is a
    Private Miniculture (cont.)
 The Family as an information-processing
  group (exemplified by Reiss, 1981):
    Focuses on entire family rather than on a dyad
     within the family.
    Families are classified according to the effects
     of observed behavior of the family on
     individuals’ behavior.
    Central theoretical proposition: families
     develop fundamental and enduring
     assumptions about the world based on it’s
     own development.
      Families develop constructs.
      Paradigm change occurs because of crisis.
      Family structure is generated and
        sustained in the daily interactions among
        family members.




                                      Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
    Metaphor 2: The Family is a
    Resource Exchange System
 Assumption: family members exchange
  resources (e.g., time, expertise);
  exchanges are guided by the desire to
  maximize rewards and minimize costs.
 Family scientists, using exchange theory,
  focus on the resources; communication
  scientists, in contrast, focus on
    communication as the means for exchanging,
    communication as a resource to be
     exchanged.




                                   Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
 Metaphor 2: The Family is a Res.
    Exchange System (cont.)
 Coercive family process theory
    Problematic interactional patterns between
     parents and children may cause antisocial and
     aggressive behavior in children.
    There are five major forms:
      Family members are generally critical and
        punitive.
      Parents are poor observers of their child’s
        behavior so deviant behavior reaches
        unmanageable proportions.
      Punishment is used in an inconsistent
        manner.
      Parents display lower levels of positive
        contact and are less likely to use positive
        reinforcement.
      Rewards are used coercively.




                                    Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
 Metaphor 2: The Family is a Res.
    Exchange System (cont.)
 Social learning models of marital
  interaction
    Assumptions: people only enter and stay in
     relationships that are equitable.
    Positive interaction is associated with
     relationships satisfaction.
      John Gottman, for example, has
        demonstrated that couples with at least a
        5:1 ration of positive to negative
        interactions are less likely to divorce.
      See also Fitzpatrick, 1988; Ting-Toomey,
        1983; Schaap, 1984; Gottman, 1979, 1995;
        Jacobson et al., 1982; Margolin and
        Wampold, 1981; and Revenstorf et al.,
        1984).




                                    Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
Metaphor 3: The Family is a set of
         Relationships
 Subsystems are the focus of research
  and theory.
 Relationship: conceptualized as a series
  of interactions between individuals
    Each interactions is limited in duration.
    Each interaction is influenced by previous
     interactions.
 This approach has had a strong influence
  on family systems theory and research.




                                       Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson
Metaphor 3: The Family is a set of
     Relationships (cont.)
 Relational control model
    Messages are bimodal, featuring two levels:
      Content level: what was said.
      Report level: what is meant or interpreted.
    Messages are interconnected.
 Patterns of interaction:
    Complementary: two messages are paired
     which are “opposite” or compatible forms
     (e.g., a dominant message with a submissive
     responsive). Example: messages to assert
     control is paired with a message that
     relinquishes control.
    Symmetrical: two messages have similar
     intent. Example: both speakers seek to assert
     control.




                                    Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson

				
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