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Article

Cancer Communication Science: Intergroup Perspectives  

Lisa Sparks and Gary L. Kreps

At the heart of cancer communication research is an effort both to increase knowledge and to identify practical strategies for improving cancer communication and for improving prevention and control of cancer, as well as for addressing cancer care issues from theoretical and applied communication perspectives across the continuum of cancer care. One important theoretical approach to consider in cancer communication science is taking an intergroup approach to cancer care. The challenge moving forward is to develop cancer communication research programs that combine important theoretical and applied perspectives, focusing on prevention strategies that can help reduce cancer risk, incidence, morbidity, and mortality, and to promote the highest quality of life for people of every age and every background.

Article

Communication Skill and Competence  

John O. Greene

Longstanding interest in communication skill and communication competence is fueled by the facts that people do differ in their social proficiency and that the quality of one’s communicative performance has significant impact on professional and personal success and satisfaction. The related terms “communication skill” and “communication competence” are first defined and distinguished. With this conceptual framework in place, consideration is then given to: (1) taxonomies of interpersonal communication skills, (2) properties of behavior associated with greater effectiveness and appropriateness, (3) the process of adult communication skill acquisition, (4) barriers and impediments to competent communication, (5) essential elements of skill-training programs, and (6) methods of skill and competence assessment.

Article

Interpersonal Communication Processes Within the Provider-Patient Interaction  

Maria K. Venetis

The degree to which patients are active and communicative in interactions with medical providers has changed in recent decades. The biomedical model, a model that minimizes patient agency in the medical interaction, is being replaced with a model of patient-centered care, an approach that prioritizes the individual patient in their healthcare and treatment decisions. Tenets of patient-centered care support that patients must be understood within their psychosocial and cultural preferences, should have the freedom to ask questions, and are encouraged to disclose health-relevant information. In short, this model promotes patient involvement in medical conversations and treatment decision-making. Research continues to examine approaches to effective patient-centered communication. Two interpersonal processes that promote patient-centered communication are patient question-asking and patient disclosure. Patient question-asking and disclosure serve to inform medical providers of patient preferences, hesitations, and information needs. Individuals, including patients, make decisions to pursue or disclose information. Patients are mindful that the act of asking questions or disclosing information, particularly stigmatized information such as sexual behavior or drug use, could make them vulnerable to perceived negative provider evaluations or responses. Thus, decisions to ask questions or share information, processes essential to the understanding of patient perspectives and concerns, may be challenging for patients. Various theoretical models explain how individuals consider if they will perform actions such as seeking or disclosing information. Research also explains the barriers that patients experience in asking questions or disclosing relevant health information to providers. A review of pertinent research offers suggestions to aid in facilitating improved patient-centered communication and care.

Article

Stepchild-Stepparent Relationships and Resilience  

Bailey M. Oliver-Blackburn

Stepfamilies have existed throughout time and refer to families that form after re-partnering when at least one partner brings a child from a previous relationship into the new union. Stepfamilies can be complex, spanning across multiple residences, and may include full biological, half-biological, and step siblings. Although stepfamilies can be found within nearly every culture in the world, they are most prevalent in Westernized cultures such as the United States. Stepparents at one time were most likely the result of the death of a spouse or partner. However, since the 1970s, stepparents have served as an additional kin or family relationship, as remarriage is more likely to follow a divorce than bereavement. As the demographics of stepfamilies have changed over time, so has the stepparent role. Stepfamilies were originally studied for how they fall short of first-marriage, intact family outcomes, and research has well-documented the inherent challenges to stepparent-stepchild relationship development, noting the ambiguous roles, expectations, and boundaries for stepfamily interaction. Stepfamilies lack cultural models to derive these roles and expectations from and thus rely on communication to make sense of the relationships within their family unit, and to externally validate their family to outsiders. Instead of exclusively focusing on their deficits, current research looks to how stepfamilies are developmentally unique yet functional, and how communication can contribute to positive and resilient stepparent-stepchild relationships. Affinity-seeking strategies, remaining flexible in roles, and negotiating boundary and ritual changes can aid in developing positive and resilient stepparent-stepchild relationships over time.

Article

Disability and Intergroup Communication  

Karyn Ogata Jones and Lee Crandall

Intergroup communication adds to the general knowledge about disability by summarizing key areas in research and commentary. Intergroup communication is discussed in terms of how stigma affects identification, perception, and communication. Scholarship examining efforts to measure attitudes these groups have about each other, and the effects of inter-group communication on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, is reviewed. Scholarly commentary plays a role in the complicated relationship between identity and disability, and how this relationship impacts intergroup interactions, as well as present a summary of studies examining intergroup communication and disability in interpersonal, group, mediated, and professional settings. Illustrations from social media are provided to show how mediated inter-group communication can impact perceptions and knowledge. Studies are presented from an international perspective, allowing for culturally based comparisons.

Article

Forgiveness Communication and Health  

Douglas L. Kelley, Bianca M. Wolf, and Shelby E. Broberg

Research on forgiveness and its health-related effects has steadily increased since the late 20th century. Most of the forgiveness-health literature demonstrates that forgiveness indirectly influences health through a variety of psychosocial affective factors. Common distinctions in this research are reflected in studies focused on reduction of negative affect and, thus, negative health effects, and studies focused on preventative and health-promoting implications of forgiveness (e.g., increased positive affect). While a lack of clarity exists regarding health implications stemming from reductions in unforgiveness (as distinct from increases in forgiving responses), current research supports the notion that forgiveness, as opposed to unforgiveness, affects psychological, physical, and relational health in overridingly beneficial ways. More specifically, forgiveness, and/or the moderation of unforgiveness, is associated with the exhibition of positive affect (e.g., sympathy, empathy, and optimism), improved self-esteem, higher life satisfaction, and better mental health ratings. Physical health effects of forgiveness include enhanced bioregulation in response to transgression stressors, as well as better self-rated health status and the exhibition of positive health behaviors. Limitations in the current literature most commonly relate to disparate definitional, methodological, and interpretative issues typical of transdisciplinary forgiveness and health research. Current trends and future directions for forgiveness-health research include consideration of additional variables thought to be associated with forgiveness processes, including religiosity, empathy, and social support. Additionally, research that focuses on communicative and relational aspects of health and well-being is warranted. Suggestions for research opportunities in forgiveness-health research framed by a communicative lens are offered.

Article

Relational Turbulence Theory  

Jennifer A. Theiss

Transitions are pivotal junctures in close relationships that have the potential to transform relational roles and disrupt interpersonal routines in ways that contribute to upheaval and turmoil for relationship partners. Relational turbulence theory identifies the mechanisms and processes that account for challenging relational circumstances emerging during relationship transitions. This framework was initially articulated as a model that was applied to relationships at moderate levels of intimacy when couples transition from casual to serious involvement. The model asserted that relational uncertainty and interference from partners are heightened during this transition and intensify emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reactivity to relationship events, creating a climate of turbulence in the relationship. As research on the relational turbulence model continued to evolve, scholars moved beyond transitions to intimacy within dating relationships and began to apply the model’s logic to a wide range of transitions across various types of relationships. The theorists sought to clarify and refine the theoretical mechanisms underlying the associations that had been documented in empirical tests of the model and advanced relational turbulence theory. The theory advances axioms around five core processes that occur in relationships during transitions. First, the theory proposes that relational uncertainty corresponds with biased cognitive appraisals due to its deleterious effects on message processing, and that interference and facilitation from partners are associated with emotional reactivity due to the arousal that is generated by interrupted routines. Second, the theory articulates the processes underlying associations between emotions, cognitions, and the engagement and valence of communication behavior during interpersonal episodes. Third, the theory explains how repeated interpersonal episodes marked by polarized emotions, cognitions, and communication accumulate over time and coalesce into a global sense of the relationship as turbulent. Fourth, the theory illuminates how relational turbulence affects various personal, relational, and social processes due to restricted relational construal levels and disrupted dyadic synchrony under these relationship conditions. Finally, the theory highlights the potential for reciprocal effects between features of communication episodes and the relationship mechanisms that create conditions for turbulence. The theory continues to evolve and be thoroughly tested through a variety of methods and measures.

Article

Multicommunication  

Maarit Valo

Multicommunication means interacting with several people separately but at the same time. Usually multicommunication refers to parallel conversations enabled by communication technologies. The essential element is interactivity: in multicommunication, several mutual, two-way interactions are managed between people. A few adjacent concepts related to multicommunication have also been used in the literature, including multitasking, media or electronic multitasking, polychronicity, and polychronic communication. Research interest in multicommunication is growing. Whereas the nascent phases of multicommunication research were largely concerned with observing the manifestation and characteristics of the multicommunication phenomenon, defining the concept of multicommunication, and differentiating multicommunication from similar concepts, contemporary research has spread out in many directions. Three main topics can be distinguished in multicommunication research: motivators of multicommunication, management of multicommunication, and consequences of multicommunication. The research contexts for multicommunication to date have been predominantly limited to working life. Very few studies have actually focused on family communication, contacts between friends, or other contexts involving communication in private life. For their preferred methods in empirical multicommunication research, most scholars to date have used surveys, interviews, diaries, critical incidents, and other self-reports, as well as laboratory experiments. Researchers are beginning to learn quite a bit about the motivators and consequences of multicommunication, as described by employees in the workplace. Multicommunication research would thus benefit from the observation and analysis of natural communication found in actual contexts, settings, and relationships.

Article

Queering the Study of U.S. Military Family Communication  

Erin Sahlstein Parcell and Danielle C. Romo

Military families in the United States reflect diverse family forms. They include not only “traditional” families but also single service members, women service members, dual-career couples, service member mothers, single-parent service members, service members of color, cohabitating military service members (i.e., nonmarried couples), LGB service members, and transgender service members. However, the research primarily reflects white, heterosexual, cisgender, different sexed, married couples who are able-bodied with biological children as well as postpositivist and interpretivist perspectives; trends that parallel interpersonal and family communication studies broadly speaking. Given calls for new approaches within these areas, and in particular military family communication research, scholars should consider “queering” the study of military family communication by including individuals who identify as queer but also varying the research theoretically. Studies that bring attention to different types of military families (e.g., LGBTQ+ military families) would make significant contributions to the scholarship and make these families as well as their unique experiences visible. Informed by calls for critical military studies and the critical interpersonal and family communication framework (CIFC), recommendations are offered for future queer military family communication inquiry. First, a brief history of queer families in the military as well as the current state of military family communication scholarship are presented. Next, the CIFC framework, discourse dependence, and relational dialectics theory are discussed as conceptual paths for engaging in critical military family communication studies.

Article

Sexual Satisfaction in LGB Relationships  

Madeleine Redlick Holland

Sexual satisfaction plays an important role in the mental, physical, emotional, and relational lives of all individuals of all sexual orientations. However, the study of sexual satisfaction among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals has been hampered by a number of conceptual and methodological shortcomings. Research on sexual satisfaction has largely been conducted among individuals in mixed-gender relationships, thereby developing and utilizing measures that are heteronormative, penis–vagina focused, and centered on monogamy. Although conceptualizations and operationalizations of sexual satisfaction in the lives of LGB individuals have been imperfect, some key findings related to this construct can be drawn from the literature. Sexual satisfaction is directly related to relationship satisfaction and quality of communication, and inversely related to homonegativity. It varies by relationship arrangements, commitment levels, living arrangements, individual difference variables (such as age, socioeconomic status, and religious affiliation), and sexual orientation. Research on sexual satisfaction can continue to grow by searching for core elements of sexual satisfaction that might be stable across all orientations, incorporating insights from both quantitative and qualitative methods, and being mindful of traditionally excluded populations, such as individuals who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Article

Queer Safer Sex Communication  

Kami Kosenko

Although communication scholars have been exploring the role of partner communication in sexual health promotion since the 1960s, the term safer sex, and its corollary safer sex communication, emerged in the late 1980s in the wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was and still is disproportionately affecting queer individuals. Numerous studies, along with some meta-analyses, point to the protective potential of safer sex discussions, defined here as the communicative management of health concerns with sex partners. Despite scholarly agreement regarding its importance, the term safer sex communication has received little explication, and much of what is known about it comes from studies with predominantly heterosexual samples. A review of the literature on queer safer sex communication points to some key issues related to age, race, trauma history, place, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and suggests important considerations for future research efforts.

Article

Minority Stress and Relationships  

Robert Carroll

Minority stress for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) and African American communities has been well documented over the past 30 years. Generally speaking, being a member of a stigmatized community can lead to alienation from social structures, norms, and institutions, all of which can have negative implications for mental health, well-being, and relationships. When speaking about minority stress and its impact on LGBTQ+ relationships, the research is mixed. Although there are findings that show LGBTQ+ individuals face greater discrimination and more negative health impacts than heterosexual couples, other research notes the positive coping mechanisms that highlight the resilient nature of these couples. For African Americans and other racial minorities, the disparities are greater, with research showing that racial identity is linked to an increase in overall external stressors. However, over the last few years, discrimination toward sexual and racial minorities has reached a critical tipping point. Both within the United States and worldwide, social movements are drawing attention to the historical inequalities experienced by minority groups, and demanding change. Considering minority stress research, methods, and analyses are built on the connection between an individual and their social situations, the construct is due for an evolution, one that is representative of what our world looks like today. Although conceptualizations thus far have been productive in understanding the stressors of the LGBTQ+ and African American communities, there is a need to incorporate critical concepts of intersectionality and expand understanding of what it means to be a member of a minority group.

Article

Self-Disclosure  

Jenny Crowley

Self-disclosure, or revealing information about the self to others, plays an integral role in interpersonal experiences and relationships. It has captivated the interest of scholars of interpersonal communication for decades, to the extent that some have positioned self-disclosure as the elixir of social life. Sharing personal information is the means by which relationships are built and maintained, because effective disclosures contribute to greater intimacy, trust, and closeness in a relationship. Self-disclosure also confers personal benefits, including reduced stress and improved physical and psychological health. Furthermore, disclosing private thoughts and feelings is often a necessary precondition for reaping the benefits of other types of communication, such as supportive communication. Despite the apparent advantages for personal and relational well-being, self-disclosure is not a panacea. Revealing intimate information can be risky, awkward, and incite judgment from close others. People make concerted efforts to avoid self-disclosure when information has the potential to cause harm to themselves, others, and relationships. Research on self-disclosure has primarily focused on dyadic interactions; however, online technologies enable people to share personal information with a large audience and are challenging taken-for-granted understandings about the role of self-disclosure in relating. As social networking sites become indispensable tools for maintaining a large and robust personal network, people are adapting their self-disclosure practices to the features and affordances of these technologies. Taken together, this body of research helps illuminate what is at stake when communicating interpersonally.

Article

Intercultural Workplace Communication  

Malgorzata Lahti and Maarit Valo

The workplace is a highly meaningful context for intercultural communication where persons who come from different countries, identify with different ethnic groups or speak different languages get to collaborate and develop relationships with one another. Needless to say, interpersonal communication in the workplace has always been a primary area of interest for intercultural communication research. Early scholarship focused on the preparation of U.S. military personnel, diplomats, business people, and missionaries for overseas assignments. However, the increasing pluralization of the social landscape has bolstered research endeavors. These days, the scope of intercultural workplace communication inquiry comprises everyday face-to-face and technology-mediated interactions in encounters, relationships, groups, and teams in a variety of working arrangements, and across a range of public and private sector organizations worldwide. The scholarship also draws on the organizational approaches of antidiscrimination and diversity management that emerged in the United States and have subsequently been exported to and reinterpreted in workplaces around the world. Researchers have looked into such workplace communication processes and phenomena as social categorization, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, conflict and its management, organizational satisfaction and identification, socialization, supportive communication, interpersonal relationship development and informal interaction, negotiation of shared workplace culture, knowledge sharing, decision-making, learning and innovation, or leadership and management. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the ways languages are used in interactions at work.

Article

Communication Technology and Interpersonal Relationships  

Andrew M. Ledbetter

Owing to advances in communication technology, the human race now possesses more opportunities to interact with interpersonal partners than ever before. Particularly in recent decades, such technology has become increasingly faster, mobile, and powerful. Although tablets, smartphones, and social media are relatively new, the impetus behind their development is old, as throughout history humans have developed mechanisms for communicating ideas that transcend inherent temporal and spatial limitations of face-to-face communication. In the ancient past, humans developed writing and the alphabet to preserve knowledge across time, with the later development of the printing press further facilitating the mass distribution of written ideas. Later, the telegraph was arguably the first technology to separate communication from transportation, and the telephone enabled people at a distance to hear the warmth and intimacy of the human voice. The development of the Internet consolidates and advances these technologies by facilitating pictorial and video interactions, and the mobility provided by cell phones and other technologies makes the potential for communication with interpersonal partners nearly ubiquitous. As such, these technologies reconfigure perception of time and space, creating the sense of a smaller world where people can begin and manage interpersonal relationships across geographic distance. These developments in communication technology influence interpersonal processes in at least four ways. First, they introduce media choice as a salient question in interpersonal relationships. As recently as the late 20th century, people faced relatively few options for communicating with interpersonal partners; by the early years of the 21st century, people possessed a sometimes bewildering array of channel choices. Moreover, these choices matter because of the relational messages they send; for example, choosing to end a romantic relationship over the phone may communicate more sensitivity than choosing to do so via text messaging, or publicly on social media. Second, communication technology affords new opportunities to begin relationships and, through structural features of the media, shape how those meetings occur. The online dating industry generates over $1 billion in profit, with most Americans agreeing it is a good way to meet romantic partners; friendships also form online around shared interests and through connections on social media. Third, communication technology alters the practices people use to maintain interpersonal relationships. In addition to placing traditional forms of relational maintenance in more public spaces, social media facilitates passive browsing as a strategy for keeping up with interpersonal partners. Moreover, mobile technology affords partners increased geographic and temporal flexibility when keeping contact with partners, yet simultaneously, it may produce feelings of over-connectedness that hamper the desire for personal autonomy. Fourth, communication technology makes interpersonal networks more visibly manifest and preserves their continuity over time. This may provide an ongoing convoy of social support and, through increased efficiency, augment the size and diversity of social networks.

Article

Memory for Media Content in Health Communication  

Soyoon Kim and Brian G. Southwell

Typical discussion about the success of mediated health communication campaigns focuses on the direct and indirect links between remembered campaign exposure and outcomes; yet, what constitutes information exposure and how it is remembered remain unclearly defined in much health communication research. This problem mainly stems from the complexity of understanding the concept of memory. Prolific discussions about memory have occurred in cognitive psychology in recent decades, particularly owing to advances in neuroimaging technologies. The evolution of memory research—from unitary or dichotomous perspectives to multisystem perspectives—has produced substantial implications for the topics and methods of studying memory. Among the various conceptualizations and types of memory studied, what has been of particular interest to health-communication researchers and practitioners is the notion of “encoded exposure.” Encoded exposure is a form of memory at least retrievable by a potential audience member through a conscious effort to recollect his or her past engagement with any particular unit of campaign content. While other aspects of memory (e.g., non-declarative or implicit memory) are certainly important for communication research, the encoded exposure assessed under a retrieval condition offers a critical point at which to establish the exposure-outcome link for the purpose of campaign design and evaluation. The typical methods to assess encoded exposure include recall and recognition tasks, which can be exercised in various ways depending on retrieval cues provided by a researcher to assess different types and levels of cognitive engagement with exposed information. Given that encoded exposure theoretically relies on minimal memory trace, communication scholars have suggested that recognition-based tasks are more appropriate and efficient indicators of encoded exposure compared to recall-based tasks that require a relatively high degree of current-information salience and accessibility. Understanding the complex nature of memory also has direct implications for the prediction of memory as one of the initial stages of communication effects. Some prominent message-level characteristics (e.g., variability in the structural and content features of a health message) or message recipient-level characteristics (e.g., individual differences in cognitive abilities) might be more or less predictive of different memory systems or information-processing mechanisms. In addition, the environments (e.g., bodily and social contexts) in which people are exposed to and interact with campaign messages affect individual memory. While the effort has already begun, directions for future memory research in health communication call for more attention to sharpening the concept of memory and understanding memory as a unique or combined function of multilevel factors.

Article

Interpersonal Communication Across the Life Span  

Carla L. Fisher and Thomas Roccotagliata

From birth to death, our interactions with others are what inform our identity and give meaning to life. Ultimately, it is interpersonal communication that is the bedrock of wellness. Much of the scholarship on interpersonal communication places communication in the background, characterized merely as a resource, symptom, or contributing factor to change. In the study of our interpersonal experiences, communication must be at the forefront. As a pragmatic lens concerned with real-world issues, a life-span perspective of interpersonal scholarship provides boundless opportunities for bridging science and practice in meaningful ways that improve social life on multiple levels, from families to schools to government to hospitals. Interpersonal communication research that is concerned with life-span issues tends to prioritize communicative phenomena and bring the communication dynamics of our relational lives to the surface. Typically, this scholarship is organized around the various stages or phases of life. In other words, researchers concerned with interpersonal communication often contextualize this behavior based on dimensions of human development and life changes we typically encounter across the life course, those major life experiences from birth to death. Much of that scholarship also centers on how we develop competence in communication across time or how communication competence is critical to our ability to attain relational satisfaction as well as a high psychological and physical quality of life. This research also highlights the influential role of age, human development, and generational differences, recognizing that our place in the life span impacts our goals and needs and that our sociocultural-historical experiences also inform our communication preferences. A life-span perspective of interpersonal communication also encompasses various theoretical paradigms that have been developed within and outside the communication discipline. Collectively, this scholarship helps illustrate the communicative nature of human life across the entire life trajectory.

Article

Sequence Organization  

Chase Wesley Raymond

The adjacency pair is the most basic and normatively accountable sequential structure in interaction. This structure can be expanded through pre-sequences, insert-sequences, and post-expansions, which can be seen to be relevantly oriented to by interactants themselves. Various forces drive this normative organization, including issues related to epistemics, intersubjectivity, progressivity, and affiliation. Larger structures—for example, sequences of sequences, overall structural organization, and storytelling—also exist in interaction but are nonetheless composed of smaller units of talk. While potentially open to a certain amount of cultural variation, sequence organization exists cross-linguistically and cross-culturally as a general structural feature of human social interaction.