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Family Communication Patterns

John P. Caughlin and Allison M. Scott

Subject Interpersonal Communication » Family Communication
Sociology » Social Psychology

Key-Topics family

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Communication patterns in families refer to repeated interaction styles and behaviors. A single family member's communication behaviors over time can be patterned, but family communication scholars tend to focus on patterns among family members. Family relationships are typically involuntary and long-lasting ( Vangelisti 1993 ). One usually cannot choose one's siblings, for instance, and sibling relationships – even strained ones – commonly endure for most of one's lifetime. The involuntary and lengthy nature of family relations provides myriad opportunities for various communication patterns to emerge. The meaning of any particular interaction between family members is informed by previously established communication patterns, sometimes even patterns involving previous generations ( Vangelisti 1993 ). Such family communication patterns are so central to family life that some scholars state that the very nature of family relationships is constituted by the ongoing pattern of exchanges ( Rogers & Escudero 2004 ). Although there is widespread agreement that patterns are important in families, the notion of a pattern can have many different meanings. One reason that conceptualizations of patterns vary is that patterns develop over different temporal periods. Messman and Canary (1998 , 122) stated that most of the empirical literature defines patterns as “recurring act-to-act sequences ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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