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The transition to extended family: examining the links between turbulence and children-in-laws’ goals, topic avoidance, and relational outcomes

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Title: The transition to extended family: examining the links between turbulence and children-in-laws’ goals, topic avoidance, and relational outcomes
Author(s): Enyart, Sylvia
Director of Research: Caughlin, John P.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Caughlin, John P.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Knobloch, Leanne; Poole, Marshall Scott; Shapiro, Constance H.
Department / Program: Communication
Discipline: Communication
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): family communication in-law relationships multiple goals relational turbulence model relational uncertainty topic avoidance
Abstract: The transition to extended family is one of the most challenging and consequential periods of flux during the family life-span. How in-laws communicate (or avoid communicating) during this transition can impact not only the in-law relationship, but the parent-child dyad, and marital duo for years to come. Previous research has speculated that forming in-law relationships is wrought with ambiguity and communication challenges, both of which may preclude in-laws from developing satisfying relationships with one another. Current scholarship, however, did not explicitly examine the direct links between in-law uncertainty, communication, and relational outcomes or the process through which these questions were linked to communication behaviors and subsequent relational consequences. By integrating two robust theoretical perspective—the relational turbulence model and a multiple goals perspective—the current study sought to uncover how the experience of uncertainty during the transition to extended family was linked to interaction goals, topic avoidance, and relationship satisfaction. In addition, the present investigation aimed to illuminate why in-law’s grappling with uncertainty did or did not engage in topic avoidance by examining how in-law’s interaction goals mediated the association between uncertainty and topic avoidance. Responses from children-in-law (N = 204) transitioning to extended family were examined. Results revealed that, in general, uncertainty shaped children-in-law’s interaction goals, was positively associated with their use of topic avoidance, and inversely related to their relationship satisfaction within the in-law dyad. Findings also indicated that several interaction goals significantly mediated the link between uncertainty and topic avoidance and uncertainty and satisfaction. Theoretically, results support the integration of the relational turbulence model and a multiple goals perspective by highlighting the role goals play in shaping communicative and relational reactions to turmoil. Practically, findings from the current study suggest avenues of support that mental health practitioners and clergy can offer couples and families as they integrate and assimilate into a new family in-law.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34268
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Sylvia Enyart
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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