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Article

V. Santiago Arias and Narissra Maria Punyanunt-Carter

Through the years, the concept of family has been studied by family therapists, psychology scholars, and sociologists with a diverse theoretical framework, such as family communication patterns (FCP) theory, dyadic power theory, conflict, and family systems theory. Among these theories, there are two main commonalities throughout its findings: the interparental relationship is the core interaction in the familial system because the quality of their communication or coparenting significantly affects the enactment of the caregiver role while managing conflicts, which are not the exception in the familial setting. Coparenting is understood in its broader sense to avoid an extensive discussion of all type of families in our society. Second, while including the main goal of parenting, which is the socialization of values, this process intrinsically suggests cultural assimilation as the main cultural approach rather than intergroup theory, because intercultural marriages need to decide which values are considered the best to be socialized. In order to do so, examples from the Thai culture and Hispanic and Latino cultures served to show cultural assimilation as an important mediator of coparenting communication patterns, which subsequently affect other subsystems that influence individuals’ identity and self-esteem development in the long run. Finally, future directions suggest that the need for incorporating a nonhegemonic one-way definition of cultural assimilation allows immigration status to be brought into the discussion of family communication issues in the context of one of the most diverse countries in the world.

Article

Haley Kranstuber Horstman, Alexie Hays, and Ryan Maliski

The parent–child relationship is one of the most influential, important, and meaningful relationships in an individual’s life. The communication between parents and children fuels their bond and functions to socialize children (i.e., gender, career and work, relationship values and skills, and health behaviors), provide social support, show affection, make sense of their life experiences, engage in conflict, manage private information, and create a family communication environment. How parents and children manage these functions changes over time as their relationship adapts over the developmental periods of their lives. Mothers and fathers may also respond differently to the changing needs of their children, given the unique relational cultures that typically exist in mother–child versus father–child relationships. Although research on parent–child communication is vast and thorough, the constant changes faced by families in the 21st century—including more diverse family structures—provides ample avenues for future research on this complex relationship. Parent–child communication in diverse families (e.g., divorced/stepfamilies, adoptive, multiracial, LGBTQ, and military families) must account for the complexity of identities and experiences in these families. Further, changes in society such as advances in technology, the aging population, and differing parenting practices are also transforming the parent–child relationship. Because this relationship is a vital social resource for both parents and children throughout their lives, researchers will undoubtedly continue to seek to understand the complexities of this important family dyad.

Article

Michelle Miller-Day

Families shape individuals throughout their lives, and family communication is the foundation of family life and functioning. It is through communication that families are defined and members learn how to organize meanings. When individuals come together to form family relationships, they create a system that is larger and more complex than the sum of its individual members. It is within this system that families communicatively navigate cohesion and adaptability; create family images, themes, stories, rituals, rules, and roles; manage power, intimacy, and boundaries; and participate in an interactive process of meaning-making, producing mental models of family life that endure over time and across generations.

Article

Brenda L. Berkelaar and LaRae Tronstad

How people negotiate the work–life interface remains a popular topic for scholars and the public. Work–life research is a large body of interdisciplinary scholarship that considers how people experience, navigate, and negotiate different roles, commitments, and boundaries within and across life domains—often with the goal of improving individual, organizational, and social well-being and success. Spurred by demographic, social, economic, and technological changes, scholars take difference perspectives on overlapping research areas which include work–life balance, work–life conflict, work–family conflict, boundary management, work–life enrichment or facilitation, as well as positive or negative spillover. Key issues addressed include the implications of framing work–life as a dichotomy, drivers of work–life outcomes, how ideals shape work–life negotiations, how individuals negotiate everyday work–life challenges and opportunities, and the influence of evolving information and communication technologies on the work–life interface. Research from multiple disciplines highlights the demographic, economic, moral, cultural, and national factors that affect work–life practices, processes, policies, tactics, and outcomes. This multidisciplinary perspective provides relevant insights for generative research and resilient practice for individuals, groups, organizations, or societies.

Article

Natoshia Askelson and Erica Spies

Parents can be the target of health and risk messages about their children and can be a channel by which children hear health messages. This dual role can make parents powerful agents for change in children’s health. Parents receive health messages from a variety of sources including health care providers, schools, the media, the government, and family. Parents tend to be a more frequent target for health messages when their children are infants or young. They receive many messages related to keeping their children safe. Most of these messages are not developed as part of a rigorous data-driven and theory-based intervention and often lack sophisticated message development and design. Furthermore, instead of segmenting parents and tailoring messages, parents are frequently treated as a monolith, with no diversity related to behavior or communication. As children age, parents can become the channel by which children can hear a health message. Parents of school-age children and adolescents are continually communicating messages to their children and are often targeted to communicate messages related to health or risk behaviors. Intentional efforts to encourage parents to talk to their children are often related to risk behaviors among older children. Specifically, parents are asked to convey messages about sexual health, alcohol and drug use, and driving. Evidence points to parent–child communication in general and communication about specific risk behaviors as protective for children. Research has also suggested that adolescents want to hear health messages from their parents. Parents are a natural choice to communicate about health and risk throughout childhood and adolescence due to the parent–child relationship and the influence parents can have over children. However, this special relationship does not automatically translate into parents having good communication skills. Messages designed to encourage parents to communicate with their children about a health topic have often been developed with the assumption that parents know what to communicate and how to effectively communicate with their children. Deficits in communication skills among parents have been recognized by some campaign developers, and an emphasis on developing those skills has been a significant part of some messages targeting parents. Health communication campaigns have been developed to inform parents about when and how to talk to their children about health issues such as alcohol, drugs, and sex. Unfortunately, not all parent–child communication is positive or effective and this can have potential unintended consequences. Treating parents as an audience in a more nuanced manner, with greater emphasis on evidence-based message development, could result in more effective messages and better health outcomes.

Article

Maureen P. Keeley

End of life communication includes both verbal and nonverbal messages that transpire following a diagnosis of a terminal illness and death. The circumstances that occur at the end of life create opportunities for unique and important communication. Specifically, communication at the end of life is impacted by numerous and complicated factors: First, cultural views on death and dying often determine what is talked about, when it can be talked about, and who is included in the conversations. Second, the fears, desires, and needs of the terminally ill must be taken into account at the end of life as it is their personal end of life journey. Third, the nature of the relationships between the terminally ill and their family and friends have tremendous influence on the nature and topics of conversations that will be shared. Fourth, interactions with healthcare professionals (preferably with palliative care specialists) tend to be more task focused, emphasizing end of life decision making and comfort care for the terminally ill. Fifth, as people are tending to live longer with terminal illness and often doing so far from their family, professional caregivers and hospice volunteers are also engaging in meaningful and significant communication with the terminally ill. Communication at the end of life often determines whether or not the dying are allowed to die with dignity, with some control over their final wishes, and whether they are ultimately able to obtain some peaceful closure. Within close relationships communication at the end of life has the potential for authentic conversations that bring people closer, heal old wounds, and allow the terminally ill and close others to create some final memories and to say goodbye to one another. Communication at the end of life with health professionals has the potential for both the terminally ill and their family members to have greater satisfaction with end of life decisions and control of pain for the terminally ill, as well as better outcomes regarding grief and bereavement following the death for family members. For hospice volunteers and professional caregivers, communication at the end of life teaches the necessity and complexities of interactions at the end of life for the larger society.

Article

Roxanne L. Parrott, Amber K. Worthington, Rachel A. Smith, and Amy E. Chadwick

The public, including lay members who have no personal or familial experience with genetic testing or diagnosis, as well as individuals who have had such experiences, face many intrinsic decisions relating to understanding genetics. With the sequencing of the human genome and genetic science discoveries relating genes to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, the scope of such decisions broadened from prenatal genetic testing related to reproductive choices to genetic testing for contributors to common causes of morbidity and mortality. The decision about whether to seek genetic testing encompasses concerns about stigma and discrimination. These issues lead some who can afford the cost to seek screening through online direct-to-consumer sites rather than in clinical settings. Many who may benefit from genetic testing lack awareness of family health history that could guide physicians to recommend these diagnostic tests. Families may not discuss health history due to genetic illiteracy, with the public’s genetic illiteracy increasing their illness uncertainty and decreasing the likelihood that physicians will engage in conversations about personalized medicine with their patients. Physicians may nonetheless order genetic tests based on patients’ symptoms, during preoperative workups, or as part of opportunistic screening and assessment associated with a specific genetic workup. Family members who receive positive genetic test results may not disclose them to life partners, other family members, or insurance companies based on worries and anxiety related to their own identity, as well as a lack of understanding about their family members’ risk probability. For many, misguided beliefs that genes absolutely determine health and disease status arise from media translations of genetic science. These essentialist beliefs negatively relate to personal actions to limit genetic expression, including failure to seek medical care, while contributing to stereotypes and stigma communication. As medical science continues to reveal roles for genes in health across a broad spectrum, communicating about the relationships that genes have for health will be increasingly complex. Policy associated with registering, monitoring, and controlling the activities of those with genetic mutations may be coercive and target individuals unable to access health care or technology. Communicating about genes, health, and risk will thus challenge health communicators throughout the 21st century.

Article

The United States military is a frequent point of public conversation since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Approximately two and a half million service members have deployed in the Global War on Terror, and many have completed multiple deployments with almost 7,000 fatalities across operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Communication research on the military has a long history but since 9/11 has picked up pace with scholars seeking to understand the military’s relationship with the media, its discussion in the public sphere, and the interpersonal/familial experiences of service members and their families. The theoretical and methodological approaches are wide ranging within the discipline, but an intergroup perspective is noticeably absent. Many opportunities exist for answering intergroup communication questions, most notably at the military and civilian divide and, in turn, offering insight about and practical suggestions for communication within and about the military. Given the numerous possibilities for intergroup communication research related to the military, researchers should seize the opportunity to bring new theoretical and methodological approaches to the area. One theory, which has not been used in the intergroup communication scholarship but has great potential for this part of the discipline, is relational dialectics theory. Relational dialectics theory (RDT) is a critical/interpretive theory/method package that explores the substance and form of relational talk with a keen eye for dominant and marginalized discourses. For example, intergroup communication scholars who study the military from an RDT perspective could help illuminate how different groups (e.g., military families and civilian families; same-sex military married couples; and opposite-sex military married couples) understand and construct, for example, their similarities and differences with the goal of improving their interactions. Intergroup communication scholars could use also RDT to study how multiple group-related discourses are present within military groups who have diverse membership (e.g., Family Readiness Groups, FRGs) where members constitute the intersections of several identities (e.g., military wives are simultaneously members of military culture but technically are not military personnel; members are also often simultaneously women, spouses, who, in some cases, are mothers who come from different socioeconomic and ethnic groups, as well as identify as officer or enlisted wives).

Article

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

Elisabetta Crocetti and Monica Rubini

A main developmental task for young people is to form a coherent and stable sense of personal and social identity. In fact, in adolescence (from ages 10 to 18), the multiple biological, cognitive, and social changes that occur stimulate young people to rethink about themselves, to reflect on the kind of person they want to become, and to find their own place in the society. Similarly, in emerging adulthood (from ages 19 to 29), young people have the possibility to explore a large array of alternatives in multiple life domains (e.g., education, work, relationships, worldviews) before enacting enduring adult commitments. Process-oriented identity models have been proposed to capture the dynamic process by which young people form and revise their identity over time, committing to relevant life domains, reflecting on their choices, and reconsidering them when they no longer fulfill personal aspirations and/or social expectations. This dynamic process is strongly intertwined with interpersonal and group communication processes. In fact, youth identity formation does not occur in a social vacuum; rather, young people form their identity by means of continuous interactions with significant others and relevant social groups. In particular, in youth, family, peers, and school represent main social contexts in which communication processes are likely to affect young people’s identities. Thus, communication processes are crucial for obtaining identity-relevant information that might foster individuals’ reflection on themselves and processes of social comparisons. Furthermore, through communication processes young people can manage their own reputation, striving to achieve and maintain a good reputation within relevant groups. Individuals’ efforts to enhance reputation are, indeed, important for gaining symbolic (e.g., satisfaction of esteem needs) and instrumental (e.g., the likelihood to be trusted by others and becoming influential) benefits that are important for youth psychosocial adjustment and well-being.

Article

Ashley Noel Mack

Motherhood is not an inconsequential and ideologically neutral individual role in society. Instead, “motherhood” is considered, according to critical and cultural scholars and theorists, to be both a complex set of experiences individuals embody and a symbolic social institution that has been used to regulate human behavior through cultural norms and social scripts that are discursively struggled over across history. The institution of motherhood is imbedded in cultural, economic, and legal systems and is a central consideration in how we come to define the domestic and public spheres. Black feminist, liberal feminist, radical feminist, Marxist, queer, postcolonial, and decolonial theories are mobilized by critics in communication to investigate motherhood as a complex symbolic interlocutor. Critical scholars from these divergent theoretical and political traditions analyze motherhood as an experience, a practice, a performance, and/or an ideology. Because of the importance of the concept of mothering in society, examining discourses about motherhood is a central concern for critical and cultural communication scholars who are interested in the formation of gender and sexual scripts and the maintenance of racial and class-based systems of oppression.

Article

Families are not immune from intergroup processes that pervade other social relationships and institutions in society. Family relationships are often constituted by individuals with different identities and worldviews, especially when considering the changing landscape of families (e.g., multiethnic–multiracial families, interfaith families). Moreover, many of our most personal relationships emerge from the joining of two distinct familial groups (e.g., in-laws, stepfamily members). Whether considering different social identities salient in family interactions (e.g., ethnicity-race, age, political affiliation) or formative dynamics as families merge, intergroup communication processes are central to managing difference in a constructive manner that facilitates development of a shared family identity and individual well-being. Further, an intergroup perspective on family highlights the manner in which families directly and indirectly socialize family members’ intergroup attitudes and worldviews.