Social Issue Essay Sample About Communication in Step-Family Relationships

research paper on communication

This research paper will focus on the documentary that goes by the name “Inside polygamy”. The documentary is hosted by Kurtis Bill to reveal the polygamous situations during the late years of 90’s with the focus of Utah community. The film starts by telling us how a sixteen year old ran away from the uncle who was also the husband and this made her to be beaten unconsciously by the father. The uncle was arrested for incest and for unlawful sexual conduct and the father was arrested for child abuse. It was very unfortunate that none of them was charged for polygamy which is crime in the United States. The film continues to document different polygamist groups. The film also interviewed various individuals who had abandoned the lifestyle of polygamy and they talked of the critics of it. A couple of sisters were harshly molested by the members of a polygamous family. One of the sisters provides assistance to the people leaving polygamy and adjusting to the new society (Kurtis). It was interesting to hear how people justified the act of polygamy by saying that they were obeying the God’s order of filling the earth (polygamy).

A stepfamily faces many challenges from its formation. Juroe (1983) argued that the main challenge that these families face is the common belief that step parenting is like parenting in the natural family. The main difference is that stepparent assumes the responsibility of raising another individual’s children. Marriage establishes a number of family relationships that has not yet been established in the stepfamily and that which has not developed interpersonally. Although the couple usually has formalized their relationship, the children usually have not created the same kind of a positive bond with the stepsiblings and the stepparents. These bonds are however very important in the process of reorganizing the stepfamily.

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Discussion of communication within step-family

Relationships within a stepfamily embody a relationship that is quintessential in transition as it is very important for the members of the new stepfamilies to deal with the challenges such as redefining boundaries of communication, conflict management, and adjustment of change as well as negotiating of new roles as they become one family. These challenges of communication are always accompanied by expression and experience of intense emotion. The study of communication in step families through the documentary discussed above, especially during the early stages of development of a stepfamily is very important and researchers have suggested that stepfamilies either “break or make” by their fourth year of development (Dunn 272).

It is very unfortunate that communication challenges that are associated with divorce and remarriage process are more complex and difficult for the children emotionally and cognitively process whereas the adults may not be able to realize the need or take some time to explain the changing form of their family to the children. In this process the stepchildren may have a mixture of emotions which could be difficult to express and understand, for example, envy, hurt, anger, jealous, envy and disappointment. However, some researchers have examined the effects of communication challenges that exist between the stepparents, biological parents and the stepchildren. The “inside polygamy” documentary has showed some evidence that new stepchildren/sibling relationship may have powerful emotions within the stepfamilies that are developing (Dunn 272).

Step siblings may find expression and experience of emotion challenging and this could end up confusing them on how to manage their emotions, especially on expressing their strong negative emotions towards each other due to lack of a shared family history, changes in their respective roles, a common experience of loss, functions with the stepfamily and their position. The manner in which the stepfamily manage their communication, experiences and expression of their emotions in regard to their new stepfamily and this may affect the emotional climate in the family. Therefore, emotional communication of the stepsibling is a central interest in this research study.

Despite the relationship of the stepsibling, it is important to have a successful formulation of a stepfamily and the researchers have very little information on the experience and expression of emotions between the stepsiblings. In the year 2004, Fitness and Duffield argued that there still exists large gaps in emotional communication research which takes great concern on emotion communication and expression in most stepfamily relationships. Other researches that have been conducted on communication of emotions in stepfamilies lack theoretical framework. It is therefore important to be guided by theory in order to argue communication research and deduction from the documentary that is in question in this paper. This will facilitate in explaining the dynamic and functional features of communication in stepfamily relationships as well as the causes and consequences of emotional communication with the context of the step family (Noller and Fitzpatrick 377).

effective communication essay

Types of communications

Communication that is effective is an essential characteristic of healthy, strong families. Research have showed that communication is an effective tool for building a block of a powerful and strong parent- child, marital and sibling relationships. Family communication includes verbal and non-verbal information that is exchanged between members of a family. Communication incorporates the ability of paying attention to the thoughts of the other people and their feelings. Honest and open communication creates an environment that allows the family members to freely express their differences as well as admiration and love for each other. It is through communication that members of the family are able resolve problems that arise in the family and which are unavoidable (Noller and Fitzpatrick 382).

Effective communication is always found in healthy and strong families whereas poor communication is found in unhealthy stepfamily relationship. This is clearly seen in the documentary where the stepsiblings do not express their anger, sadness and confusion that they could be experiencing. This however leads to emotional disorder and conflicts within the family. The communication is unclear and indirect, which is a poor communication. However, family and marriage therapists often report that poor communication is an expression of unhealthy families which is not necessary the stepfamilies. Some stepfamilies however have been able to engage the stepsibling in healthy communication and openness however it is a challenge at first because of a change in the environment of the family and its form. Poor family communication leads to many family problems which include to excessive conflicts in the family, ineffective solving of problems, weak emotional bonding and lack of intimacy.

The nature of stepsibling relationship has potential to create powerful emotional communication between the stepchildren in the formation of the new stepfamily contributes to the understanding a threatened emotional expression. The first goal of this study is to unfold the emotional profiles of communications that characterize the relationship of the stepsiblings. In order to attain the goal of emotional communication within the stepfamily, I examined specific emotions that were experienced by the stepsiblings in the documentary and the extent to which they expressed those feelings/emotions and how they expressed their emotions towards each other. The other goal was to explore the extent of emotional communication and how it affected the perception of the sibling and quality of their relationship (Margret 359-362).

Communication of thoughts and emotions within a stepfamily relationship can be characterized as negative or positive arousal that is stimulated by a certain behavior of a family member. A good example is when the actions of a family member exceeds or meets the expectations of the other stepsibling, and then it is likely that the behavior will create positive emotion in communicating. On the other hand if a stepsibling violates the expectations of a family member, there will likely be some negative emotion created in the process of communication. In either way, the members of the family who are involved in the process of communication and expression of emotions will produce some type of a response (Margret 359-362).

essay on communication

The experience and subsequent communication and expression of emotions and thoughts between relational partners functions as interpersonal communication. Some researchers have argued that intentional and unintentional emotional expression and communication of thoughts can be considered as communicative acts which thereby produce some significant relational consequences. One of the positive consequences of emotional communication is that it gives relational and personal information to relational partners. For instance, when a stepsibling emotions experience is discerned, this allows an individual to clearly understand his or her own needs and goals while he or she is conveying the experienced emotions.

The individual therefore understands his or her own goals and needs in the process of communicating the experienced emotions and it gives the individual a chance to communicate his or her personal desires and needs to the relational partner. This has clearly been portrayed in the documentary. Sometime, communication of thoughts and emotions may give negative consequences for interpersonal interaction. The narrator of the documentary reveals that display of emotions may actually threaten the relation of stepfamily members and their ability to maintain a competent self-presentation.

Relational partners may use at least five types of strategies while communicating. Use of these strategies may have face threatening act. According to Goffman (1959), face is refers to the positive public image that each individual attempts to create and maintain during interaction with other people. According to politeness theory, a person could have two types of faces which are either negative or positive face. A positive face refers to our desire to be liked and to be included by the important people in our lives whereas the negative face refers our desire for autonomy and need to be free from constraint or imposition. Brown (1987) argues that strong communication of emotion and thoughts between relational partners represents a face threatening act which can threaten both negative and positive face. Theorists maintain that relational partners especially in stepfamily may employ at least five types of politeness strategies in communication. Use of politeness strategies may affect stepsibling’s perception of quality of their relationship.

The nature of relationship between stepsiblings has potential to create a powerful emotional expression and communication of thoughts between and among the members of the stepfamily and exploration of the emotional communication between the stepsiblings in formation of the new stepfamily. The documentary has provided an emotion profile that characterizes relationship between the stepsiblings. The documentary showed the emotions that the stepsiblings experienced and the extent to which they communicated them between the members of the stepfamily and the manner in which they used in communicating these emotions when they started living together in the same household.

The film produced by emotion and communication scholars on the process of emotional communication and the significant of expressing or communicating emotions and thoughts within the stepfamily relationship. A divorce and the process of remarriage comes along with various and complex communicative and interpersonal challenges that create powerful emotions for the stepsiblings who are trying to create , negotiate and manage new relationships with each member of the new stepfamily. The film focuses on the factors of communication which are involved in reorganization of the family. In this case, reorganization of the stepfamily involves communication at points that are perceived as the critical points in development of the stepfamily relationships. The stepsiblings and stepparents engage in talks with each other about their relationship. This process is referred to as “meta-communication” or rather in simple term it is communication about communication. The film shows that the relational forms of “communication about communication” takes place from recurring personal encounters.

In the process of reorganizing the family to be a stepfamily, meta-communication of both episodic and relationship types are expected to be in evidence in the stepfamily. The film revealed that relational forms of meta-communication take place from recurring personal encounters whereas episodic form of communication occurs within a specific encounter. The documentary shows that explicit meta-communication involves serious discussion of the meaning of the communication behavior or the relationship itself. Meta-communication takes place through verbal or non-verbal, by which patterns of communications are created, changed and maintained. How family members talk and act with each other says much about them and how well they function as a family and especially in the stepfamilies. Stepsiblings and stepparents feel caught between relationships and they could feel pulled between opposite forces (Beer 84).

The functions of communication

Interpersonal relationships are differentiated from other types of relationships, such as social, temporary or acquaintance relationships by the fact that relational partners have personal knowledge of each other and they are interdependent mutual. These features frame the expression and experiences of communication between stepfamily members in unique ways. For instance, an individual could be angry with another driver who has cut out of a lane, but it is common that the arousal will pass quickly without any relational consequences. By contrast, in family relationships where the other person has the best interest at heart, angers, and knows what pleases, frightens and hurts us, we notice, process and respond to the emotions that arouse us. People are likely to experience various emotions that are complex and enduring in a close relationship as compared to casual relationship.

In the study and analyses of the polygamous life from the documentary that is mentioned, which tells us about communication in stepfamily, reveals that expression of emotions and communication of thoughts are complicated within stepparents and stepsibling relationships because new members of the stepfamily may have characteristics typical of a close family relationship and characteristics of new acquaintances. For example, positive emotions such as joy and happiness are expressed in stepfamilies to communicate pleasure or to show contentment with a relational partner (Beer 83).

Communication in stepfamily provides a way of expressing strong, positive and weak emotions. Planalp (1999) argued that communication between stepfamily and expression of emotions helps to create and sustain relational identities as it allows members of the stepfamily to cope with their life experiences. A stepsibling may express emotions after a traumatic event. This helps to distance them from the experience and therefore a sibling who has had a rough experience in the previous family relationship before they formed the new stepfamily could respond negatively to the idea of stepfamily relationship. These would result to the sibling distancing him or herself from the other stepsiblings. Also when a member of the stepfamily communicates his thoughts and expresses his emotions he is able to make a meaningful experience.

interpersonal communication

This means that the member of the stepfamily can understand the experience and the emotions that they felt. Thirdly when a member of the step family communicates with other member of the family allows him or her to unify his thoughts and feelings about their emotions in the new stepfamily and how they feel about the whole experience. This would therefore create a sense of control over their emotions and therefore putting the complex emotional experience into a coherent message which allows the stepfamily member to be the actor in the relationship development. Although communication of thoughts and emotions has positive consequences researchers have showed in the film that there could be negative consequences.

The film shows that communication of emotions and thoughts in stepfamily could threaten the self image of a stepsibling or stepparent. Planalp (1999) argues that when an individual communicates his or her thoughts and emotions without any confidant there is usually a risk of being judged negatively, or having some private information revealed to others, or upsetting the other member of the stepfamily and these could damage the stepfamily relationship that has been developed (Baxter 452).

Stepsiblings face a number of complex challenges of communication as they go through a divorce and the process of remarriage. Stepchildren must define and redefine the boundaries of communication, adjust to the changing environment and changes in financial status and they should be able to deal with loyalty conflict and negotiate the new roles. The stepchildren find that they must cope with other member of the family and that they have to start living with the new family members often in a short period of time. The realignment of the new stepfamily creates residential, financial and interpersonal problems for many stepsiblings. The documentary that is used in this research paper shows that stepchildren are forced to cope with the new communicative boundaries, role of ambiguity and loyalty conflict.

As a result, children feel caught in the middle between their stepparent, residential parent and the nonresidential parent. They also feel less close to the stepfamily and that they do not feel any sense of belonging with their stepfamily. The challenges that the stepchildren experience are of a particular interest in this research paper because those challenges have the capacity to elicit powerful emotional experiences and therefore influence the function, form and consequences of emotional communication.

There have been many researchers who have concentrated their study on interpersonal and challenges of communication between stepchildren, their stepparents and their parents and very few researchers have paid much attention on the challenges that come along with challenges of emotional communication. It is important to note that emotional communication between and among the stepsiblings and the presence of stepsiblings creates a complex family dynamics within a step family that is developing. The film has proved that stepsibling relationship is complex and that which is full of conflict due to competition of parental attention and affection, resources and space.

the importance of communication essay


The film has revealed that stepfamilies experience a lot of challenges in expressing their emotions and communicating their thoughts. At the end of the documentary, the reporter showed the many things that stepfamilies can engage with in order to create an effective communication atmosphere between the stepsiblings, stepparents and the parents in order to improve the quality of the family relationship. The film suggested that stepfamily should engage in communication frequently and that they should create time to spend together. The busy schedule has made it difficult for family members to create time to spend together and engage in a meaningful conversation.

The stepfamily members should practice to communicate their emotions and thoughts clearly and directly as they would create a healthy family. This is very important when solving problems that arise between the stepfamily. Each member of the step family should pay attention to the non-verbal messages which include the facial expression and the body language. Communication has been divided into two areas in the documentary. The instrumental communication which involves the factual information which enables he individuals to attain common family functions. Affective communication is the manner in which the stepfamily members share and express their emotions. A healthy stepfamily should be able to communicate in both ways.