Communication Sample Paper

Stable families thrive on proper communication among all family members. When there are communication difficulties, it becomes difficult for an atmosphere of mutual understanding to exist, leading to conflicts. This paper is a review of the literature on family-based communication difficulties. The paper assesses different options, points of view and approaches that different scholars have suggested in addressing this family problem.


According to Vangelisti, one of the most studied aspects of family communication is conflict (413). In most cases, this type of communication involves parents and adolescents. Vangelisti makes the suggestion that conflict has been emphasized so much that it has eclipsed many positive aspects of family and marital interaction (413).

Barnes & Olson indicate that many family communication researches have tended to focus on families that are facing different problems (441). In most of such researches, most of the attention tends to be put on the role of mothers, fathers, and adolescents. Parents and adolescents tend to perceive their role in family communication differently mainly because of generational differences. This is why it is often recommended that each of these groups be research differently (Vangelisti, 442).

In Vangelisti’s study, findings that were derived at the family level through the use of discriminant analysis showed that a linear relationship exists between adolescent-parent communication and the dimensions of cohesion and adaptability on the one hand and family satisfaction on the other (443). Families that had good adolescent-parent communication were observed to perceive themselves highly in terms of cohesion and adaptability and family satisfaction.

Conflict theories tend to emphasize that conflicts are always ubiquitous and inherent, especially because of the emotional involvement and interdependence involved in these close relationships. In Vangelisti’s observation, research in conflict relating to family communication tends to be motivated by an interest in improving various family relationships (413).

Ritchie notes that mass communication with an immense interest in family communication has traditionally been assuming that family norms are always shared among all family members (536). Instead, these researchers tend to hold the view that the apparent disagreement relating to family norms are caused by instrument unreliability. In a survey of 308 adolescents together with their parents, Ritchie found out evidence of many systematic patterns involving agreement and disagreement between fathers and mothers and between parents and their children. In the research, seventh-grade children were more likely to share views with their mothers with regard to concept-orientation while they share views with their fathers with regard to social orientation. The suggestion here is that future research on family communication must not ignore the subtle influence of different intrafamilial patterns that affect agreement and disagreement as part of a family‘s heritage.

 In a different research paper, Ritchie points out to the recurring consistency in the way Family Communication Pattern scales are interpreted in any given epistemic setting (561). This is done through a review of the traditional family linkage, through which Ritchie suggests a more direct interpretation of all the items that are used in the scales.


            Clark notes that some of the issues that today’s family researchers examine involve family difficulties, particularly areas such as parental attitudes, broken homes, parental discipline and family cohesiveness (201). Clark observes that attention appears to be increasingly shifting towards one aspect: communication between children and their parents (201).

Communication among different members of a family is widely accepted as one of the most critical aspects of familial interpersonal relationships. It is seen as an indispensable tool for understanding the dynamics that lie in family relations. Clark notes that family members tend to make use of patterns of communication in order to organize and reorganize themselves into modes of behavior that are predictable.

            Through a study of communication patterns, it is always possible to understand the concepts of cohesion, rules, and roles and decision-making processes that function within every family system. Shulman notes that discrepancies between the perceptions of adolescents and parents’, for instance, is related to poor communication between these two generations. As opposed to families that experience problems with all their children, ‘optimal families’ always remain open and overly expressive in whenever they are communicating.

Another dimension to communication difficulties within the family arises out of aging. Shulman notes that as people continue to grow older, new approaches in communication become necessary mainly because of the resulting changes in the experiences of all family members (798).

            Shulman organized a series of workshops for the family as well as friends of residents in a manner that informed them all about the nature of communication and its effect on the aging process. The workshops also highlighted the neurological and psychological nature of communication-related impairments. The participants were encouraged to manage contexts in which a break-down of communication takes place. As the participants continued to engage in these workshops, increased satisfaction and understanding was created. The workshops also increased the extent to which communication-facilitating techniques are understood.

            In an analysis of a random sample involving 169 families, Fitzpatrick was able to establish a clear relationship between clear schemata for marital relationships and the one for parent-child relationships (288). In families that were headed by traditional, separate and traditional/separate couples, all family members always viewed family interaction in light of a high level of conformity orientation. On the other hand, families that were headed by traditional and independent couples, all the family members considered family interaction in terms of a high conversational orientation. Families that share a certain family communication schemata seem to agree that certain dimensions are necessary for a given type of family live to be enjoyed.

            Koerner notes that family beliefs and communication behavior on how family members ought to communicate with each other closely relate and combine, creating distinct family communication patterns (37). According to Koerner, there are two main dimensions for determining different patterns of family communication: conformity orientation and conversation orientation. Understanding these patterns is necessary for solving difficulties that arise as a result of communication, miscommunication or lack of communication at all.

            Sometimes, creating a typology of families is necessary for an effort to understand the difficulties that are faced. The typologies are also critical in the categorization of patterns of communication as either conformity or conversation orientation. The difficulties involved in each orientation may sometimes be distinct to either category while at other times, it may be shared.

            Different communication approaches that are adopted in the family setting tend to have different functional consequences, one of which is communication difficulties. Difficulties in communication may arise out of differences in the interpretation of the orientation or belief systems to which a particular communicative context is embedded.

            Conversation orientation works effectively in families that are facing communication difficulties. This is because family members create a favorable climate for all members to participate in the topic of discussion. This type of interaction is often spontaneous, friendly, and members engage in a wide array of topics. In conformity orientation, the homogeneity of family attitudes, beliefs and values is emphasized during interactions. In this approach, the emphasis is always on avoidance of conflicts, interdependence among family members, and most importantly, conformity to the existing norms. In the high end of the conformity orientation continuum, children are not given an opportunity to make their own decisions. In the low end of this approach continuum, a liberal approach is adopted, whereby children are allowed to make their own decisions on what they consider the best traditional family structure.

            Fitzpatrick observes that the debate on communication orientation is central to understanding the difficulties that arise when family members do not seem be interacting in the right manner (401). In a study of school-age children, Fitzpatrick sought to determine the understanding of different family communication approaches. The children were required to identify different approaches to family communication, with the target categories being high conformity, protective and laissez-faire. The findings suggested that at particular points of development, family communication environments may indeed be differentially beneficial for girls and boys at different stages of development.

Tim observes that in every family conflict, there are underlying communication-related difficulties that are deeply rooted in the family’s traditional model of interpersonal communication (41). Difficulties between the communication patterns of parents and those of children may arise because of insufficient acculturation on the part of the children.

According to Baxter & Clark, perceptions of parent-child communications also have a key role to play in determining whether difficulties arise or not (255). Issues of family commitment may be ritualized in different ways, thus determining the nature of perception on the role of parents and children in family communication. When family rituals are adopted by children in the right manner, family conflicts between parents and their children can be avoided or reduced.

Parental mediation styles introduce a new dimension to discussions on family communication. Parental involvement in mediation can be either positive or negative. For instance, positive mediation may take the form of endorsement of TV messages while negative mediation may occur when TV messages are counter-reinforced. The implication is that those parents who employ an open communication style have higher chances of making use of interventions that are discussion-based.

For college students, openness in patterns of family communication has a close link with college attitudes and behaviors. According to Booth-Butterfield, these patterns particularly influence the perceptions of these children towards alcohol abuse and sexuality (306). Although attitudes do not necessarily predict behavior, the more families discuss these two topics, the greater the possibility of students acting in a safe manner regarding alcohol and sex.

According to Barnes & Olson, marital types and family types always have a more significant influence on family communication compared to children (438). This is because in most cases, family relationships develop out of marital or similarly dyadic relationships. The way in which parents communicate, therefore, imposes the greatest influence on the way families communicate.

With regard to marital communication, differences may be discerned along strata formed by different marriage types. The marriage types include traditional, separate and independent marriages. Fujioka notes that theoretical and empirical research supports the stratification of communication difficulties on the basis of these different marriage types (642).

According to Rita, early explications of communication patterns within the family setting indicate that interactions between parents and adolescents lead to mutual engagement in building of family values and norms (38). In sharp contrast, parent-imposed norms have a significant impact on the socialization outcomes of adolescents. However, the empirical research that shows this contrast fails to assess whether adolescent norms can have a social impact on family communication patterns. Against this backdrop, Huang’s study is based on the assumption that adolescents tend to have a profound influence on family communication patterns. It tested to be true, the assumption puts to the fore the need for adolescents to be actively engaged in efforts to solve family communication problems (242). 

            Family communication patterns determine the personality traits that family members adapt when relating to one another. For instance, as Huang observes, in conversation-oriented families, members exhibit a desire for self-esteem, control, sociability, shyness and social desirability (243). These findings highlight the need for an all-inclusive approach to be adopted in dealing with communication within the family.

            Although many studies have been done on the issue of relational standards in family communication, no standards appear to have been agreed upon by family communication researchers.  For this reason, not much is known about the standards that family members should strive for when they are resolving communication problems. However, the existing body of literature has the potential to assist family members as well as family nurses in understanding the causes of various communication problems in the domestic setting.

Works cited

Baxter, Leslie & Clark, Catherine. “Perceptions of family communication patterns and the enactment of family rituals” Western Journal of Communication, 60.3, (1996): 254 – 268.

Barnes, Howard & Olson, David. “Parent-Adolescent Communication and the Circumplex Model”, Child Development, 56.2 (1985): 438-447.

Booth-Butterfield, Melanie. “The influence of family communication on the college-aged child: Openness, attitudes, and actions about sex and alcohol” Communication Quarterly, 46.3, (1998): 295 – 308.

Clark, Richard. “Family communication and delinquency, Family Communication and Delinquency” Adolescence, 32.7 (1997): 187-218.

Fitzpatrick, Mary. “The Effect of Family Communication Environments on Children’s Social Behavior During Middle Childhood”, Communication Research (1996): 23.4, 379-406.

Fitzpatrick, Mary. “Communication Schemata within the Family: Multiple Perspectives on Family Interaction”, Human Communication Research, 20.3 (1994) 275–301.

Fujioka, Yuki. “The Relationship of Family Communication Patterns to Parental Mediation Styles”, Communication Research, 29.6, (2002) 642-665.

Huanga, Li-Ning. “Family communication patterns and personality characteristics”, Communication Quarterly, 47.2, (1999): 230 – 243.

Koerner, Ascan “Understanding family communication patterns and family functioning: the roles of conservation orientation and conformity orientation” in Gudykunst, William Communication Yearbook 26, New York: Wiley & Sons, 2009.

Ritchie, David. “Family Communication Patterns: Measuring Intrapersonal Perceptions of Interpersonal Relationships”, Communication Research 17.4, (1990): 523-544.

Ritchie, David. “Family Communication Patterns: An Epistemic Analysis and Conceptual Reinterpretation”, Communication Research (1991)   18.4, 548-565.

Rita, Matteson. Adolescent self-esteem, family communication, and marital satisfaction, Journal of Psychology, 86.1, (1974):  35-47.

Shulman, Martin. ‘”communication Training of Relatives and Friends of Institutionalized Elderly Persons” The Gerontologist, 28.6 (1988):  797-799.

Tims, Albert. “Measurement of Family Communication Patterns” Communication Research, 12.1 (1985):  35-57.

Vangelisti, Anita. “Communication, Conflict, and the Quality of Family Relationships” in Sillars, Allan. Handbook of family communication, London: Routledge, 2008.

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