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chapter 3


the dynamic process whereby our exchanges with others simultaneously affect and are affected by our intimate relations

Family Systems Theory (FST)

is a GST that sees the family as an interconnected system--a whole entity comprising interconnected parts that seek balance, it concerns interactions and interrelations

(words that are related to this and that will be in essay question: wholeness, homeostasis, boundaries, family rules and roles)

General Systems Theory (GST)

a worldview of a paradigm that puts forth the notion that objects do not exist in isolation, but instead are interconnected parts of a larger whole


"to place together" or to connect one entity to another

family system

a living, ever-changing, dynamic entity that consists of various individuals and their interconnected, intergenerational patterns or interactions


the relational patterns and interactions among the separate individuals within a family

family of origin

the family into which we are born or brought into by adoption


every system has some type of border between it and its environment

closed boundaries

forming one end of the boundary spectrum, prevent information from coming in or going out

open boundaries

boundaries where the transfer of information is so unobstructed that family members within the systems lose their identities


balance, Virgina Satir mobile metaphor

Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems

this model was created to address family cohesion, adaptability, and communication, providing the means to assess a family's level of functioning and health. according to David Olson's model, families who exhibit balance function more sufficiently and effectively over time than families who are more out of balance

family's emotional bonding
-disengaged (not enough engagement)
-enmeshed (too much in each other's lives)
family's flexibility
-chaotic (unreasonably wide open boundaries)
-rigid (rules have no flexibility, rules made for convenience of grow-ups)


govern what family members can and cannot discuss or share and how they are to interact with their own family members

Symbolic Interaction Theory

This approach to examining family life and family communication assumes that human behavior is a continuous dialogue where people watch the behaviors of people and then react to these behaviors

continuous observation and reactions to others

focus on communication (verbal and non-verbal)

communication as:
-construction of meanings
-symbols (codes)


in an attempt to share meanings (codes)


the definition to which we assign to verbal and nonverbal interactions


-key concept in Symbolic Interaction theory
-"system of meanings"

role strain

occurs when there are competing demands from multiple roles

role conflict

the contradictory demands of the various roles individuals must perform, such as parent versus employee

child language brokering

children in non-English-speaking homes are called on to be mediators and to speak or read, since in most cases the children are first to acquire competence in a new language


the obvious meaning of a communication


the underlying context in which a communication takes place

trouble talk

talking about emotional and relationship problems


the process of making and sharing meanings

verbal communication

refers to exchange of thoughts, messages, or information through the spoken word

nonverbal communication

occurs with or without the spoken word (emotions)

emotional communication

the physical gestures and movements that convey our emotions (aka nonverbal communication)

relational messages

messages that have something to do with the partner or relationship

non-relational messages

issues or topics concerning things outside of the relationship


the interpretation of unspoken exchanges

functional communication

communication that addresses only the ins and outs of daily life, leaving one feelings as though something is lacking in one's family connections

nurturing communication

interactions that convey intimacy, caring, recognition and validation of family members

relational culture

a framework of understanding--a private, unique, distinct language--that couples construct in private

confirming messages/responses

types of communication characterized by recognition of the other person, relevant dialogue, and acceptance; all of these show a willingness to be involved in the relationship

"i hear you"


voluntarily sharing things with someone else that are personal or private to us

"i trust you"

emotional safety

the high degree of trust required to selfdisclose

family meetings

formal or informal regular family discussions that provide structure and organization tot he family system and allow for meaningful conversation

active listening

when we do this, we become connected to another person so we not only hear what they are saying, but understand what they are feeling

reflective listening

a form of active listening in which we pay close attention to a person's verbal and emotional messages, and respectfully acknowledge their perspective


to view the issue from another perspective

constructive conflict

conflict that serves to build relationships and to foster loyalty, commitment, and intimacy

even during disagreements...avoids negative comments and affirms value/worth of partner

regulated couples

they use communication patterns and interpersonal behaviors that promote closeness and intimacy, such as using more positive comments than negative comments during times of tension

validating, volative, conflict-minimizing

destructive conflict

can be either:
overt--which refers to obvious conflict (verbal-hurtful, gunnysackin) or
covert--which is more subtle but nonetheless hurtful, (denial, displacement, disengaged, pseudomutuality (ignoring it))

this type of conflict is unhelpful and can be deadly (physical violence)


an example of displacement, occurs when anger and hostility are directed at one family member in particular who always bears the brunt of everyone's frustration


refers to a spouse or family member who hold in resentment, hurt, anger, frustration, and bitter feelings until that "last straw"--when they unload all the pent-up feelings in the midst of an argument

nonregulated couples

these couples have a difficult time bouncing back from arguments and disputes because the manner in which they handle the conflict only compounds the issues at hand

criticism, defensiveness, contempt (overall hate), stonewalling


when communication between marital partners completely shuts down


a deliberate process that transforms a strong desire for revenge into a positive response

direct forgiveness

family members or intimate partners clearly, plainly, and directly tell the offender that she or he is forgiven

overt words spoken to the person

indirect forgiveness

family members or intimate partners communicate this type of forgiveness by nonverbal displays and by acting as though the transgression never happened

actions, written, gifts

conditional forgiveness

the type of forgiveness used when people want relational repair, but they want to make it very clear that repeating certain behaviors will not be tolerated

i will forgive you, if you do this

narcissistic entitlement

a sense of being entitled to, or deserving, only the good things in life; a pride-related barrier to forgiveness


the inability to see one's own potential for doing wrong or hurting another person; a pride-related barrier to forgiveness

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