Rational Dialects Theory in Families

Rational Dialects Theory in Families


This paper will explore Lyn and Richard’s ‘Perspectives on Family Communication’ (2005). It will emphasize on the role of communication in the creation and solving of issues in a family. The paper will draw from different literatures authored by different scholars on the basis of the theory of relational dialectics in families. The assertion of dialectical scholars is that while in a relationship, people should reflect on concrete ways or practical strategies that are used by individuals in endorsing or acting in response to contradictions. The adoption of the interdisciplinary approach will enable this paper to explain changes in families’ demographics which have caused a decline in marriage rates. This has led to increased child poverty, same-sex marriages, and single parenting. The paper concludes that the future studies can be based on the family communication’s literature that exists currently as well as relational dialectics in studying interaction contexts where communication can occur among the contemporary families in an attempt to handle existing contradictions in the family setting.


Family studies’ field is intricate and it has overlapping disciplines and acquisition areas. Over the past 30 years, several debates have been held by scholars on various issues that relate to family communication. Due to this study’s nature, some scholars have taken narrower approaches to tackle specific communication aspects. The study by Lynn and Richard (2005) was not narrowed down. Instead, it focused on the entire family communication perspective. They began by focusing on this communication via definitions whose aim was to explain the theories and concepts in details. As a way of drawing attention to communication’s responsibility in generating and getting deeper into the issues of family communication, ‘Perspectives on Family Communication’ reveals methodically the sudden increase in the research literature on family communication. Communication’s theoretical work is important in the conceptualization of the modern family’s characteristics. Just as the name suggests, dialectical theory within the family context describes the understanding of incongruous elements of families’ relationships.

The ‘Perspectives on Family Communication’ is examined in this paper. The argument of the authors is that there are no family ties or relations that can lack conflicts. They emphasize on communication’s role in the creation and solving of issues in the family. According to Lyn and Richard (2005), family is a unit and families differ. The authors provide the methodological approach that is used in tackling this subject. Further, these authors define family communication and family culture’s perspectives. According to them, a family is a self-defined group made of intimates who establish and sustain themselves via their interactions as well as interactions with the others. Fitzpatrick & Ritchie (1993) conversely argue that the society has reconsidered the definition of the word family due to several sociological changes. The relationships are involuntarily or voluntarily. For example, while marriage can be seen as voluntary, blood relations among people are unintentional. The emphasis of Vangelisti (1993) is on the fact that relations in a family are involuntary. Solving problems in them is almost impossible because complex emotions and histories influence them. As such, Lynn et, al. (2005) and Fitzpatrick et al. (1993) posit a similar argument as they try to describe family relations’ nature.

Overview of Relational Dialectics and Dialectical Tensions

There are different related opposites and tensions that are always eminent in relationships that are dealt with in relational dialectics. Differences may be assumed negative or positive in families. Nevertheless, words like dilemma, negotiation or tension are in most cases seen as negative. These exist when people have a relationship (Rebecca & Emily, 2012). If a person employs dialectical reasoning, it emerges to them that such adversaries’ occurrence is intrinsic in a relationship and it ought not to be seen as an issue or a negative trend. Supposing a member of a family faces such an issue, should it be taken to mean that such a person can be relied on? Is it right to share information with such a person? Alternatively, will I be right by suggesting at this point of a relationship? These are critical questions when it comes to comprehending relational dialectics because they put a person in the situation of another. The suggestion of most literatures is that relationships are successful after addressing cases that relate to these dialectical tensions (Larry, 2000). Majority of dialectical scholarships have four major concepts. These are change, Praxis, totality and contradiction.

William Schutz, a psychologist notes that there are three important requirements of individuals in relationships. These are affection, control and inclusion. A question that lingers in mind is, suppose these requirements are not met, what happens? People tend to establish tension and contradiction in a family. This is sometimes a hindrance in a relationship and it affects long-term development.

In fact, individuals in families have varying characters. Consequently, one can correctly say that as a family component, there are difficulties bundles especially in communication. Communication plays a vital role in the creation of a lasting and productive family relationship (Lynn & Richard, 2005). The essence of communication is appreciated by some individuals while others do not appreciate it. This depends on characters as well as mood. As such, the needs that should be managed in a way that accommodates different people exist if bad outcomes are to be avoided or circumspection in regards to relations in the family in the future. Nevertheless, it should be noted that there are different definitions of different scholars though they are all focused on communication and relation within the family unit. According to Lyn and Richard (2005), all communications in a family context exists within cultural perspectives. Call culture’s communication exists and it happens in a family context. Lynn and Richard (2005) give the definition of culture as the historically shared system that comprises of the symbolic resources via which people make the world meaningful. As such, culture is understood as being instrumental in the understanding of a person of the way groups come together to form communities on the basis of widespread symbols, verbal communication, foods, belief systems and religious conviction.

Theorists and researchers after dedicating work to family usually agree that social controls, behaviors and ethics affect family structures and these have undergone several changes over the past two decades (Fitzpatrick & Ritchie, 1993; Larry, 2000). Families are able to endure such changes and this means that they can adjust and how members of a family communicate facilitates their agility. This introduces the essence of communication within a family setup in regards to the existing challenges. Considering these challenges, comprehensive family communication’s clarification makes considering both interactivity and inter-subjectivity necessary (Fitzpatrick & Ritchie, 1993; Owen, 1998). This implies that communication ought to include a cognitive factor elucidating the way responses are generated, formed and upheld by family members in a family to the actions of one another. As such, the approach that a family uses in sustaining its structure using patterns of responses that are produced by family members to the actions of each other during communication is illustrated by interactivity.

However, the authors also argue that communication plays a vital role in family life today because individual relationships prospects have changed slowly and these changes are inevitable. Family members’ upbringing occurs mostly during non-verbal communication and verbal exchanges in the family set up. Larry (2000) posited this idea as well in his research about the essence of contradiction and communication in a family set up. Both Rebecca et, al. (2012) and Leslie (2004) established in their studies that communication within families enhances the feeling of security among young people. It also makes them feel that their parents value them even when there are contradictions.

Several family stories have been involved by these authors featuring a member of a family or several members of a family. The stories depict a sequence and they show quality drama that accompanies conflict or suspense. These require negotiation that involves the stories versions of the other members of the family (Rawlins, 1992; Mumby, 2001). These stories are used to establish links between the current and the future events in regards to the nature of conflicts that are experienced by families.

The assertion of the authors is that families’ demographics have changed. As such, there has been a decline in marriage rates and this has caused an increase in same-sex marriages, child poverty and single parenting among others.

Lynn & Richard (2005) however assert that there are no many difficulties that are faced by step-families in communication since inception. Communication use has been ignored by most families in their setups because of different activities and schedules of their members. Failure to use communication within a family leads to problems because individuals do not share emotions and ideas. These are what make solving differences possible. Lynn and Richard (2005) try to explain the important role of communication among family members as well as the way it ought to be handled in the third chapter of the book. Their argument is that a family should have rules for governing how communication is used in order to be effective.

How families address dialectical tensions in a family set up

The assertion of dialectical scholars is that while having a relationship, individuals should reflect on concrete ways or practical strategies via which people act and endorse in response to contradictions. Further, they show that there are responses that have more use in a relationship. Among the strategies that have been categorized as unproductive by the scholars is denying the existence of contradiction (Rebecca & Emily, 2012; Baxter & West, 2003). Those are the kind of unproductive strategies that play a role in pulling different families backwards in terms of developmental directions. The argument of the authors is that individuals’ religious convictions within a family play a vital in helping families cope with contradictions. According to Rebbecca and Emily (2012) and Lynn and Richard (2005), diversity in communication in a family, family communication’s challenges, changes in the world and family communication’s value in the society are important in the management of contradictions within a family as well as the societal settings.

Strengths and weakness of the material used

In discussing family conception concept, the authors use different literatures. However, they should define the communication concept in order to use it in form of an effect or reason for their research. To most researchers, it is important to have distinguishable boarders or boundaries dividing communication concept in general as well as the family setting’s communication. The way communication exists between families differs. As such, it ought to be handled in a careful manner while focusing on the essence of communication when it comes to solving different family problems. Previous literature and research has been used to build the findings and argument which is important in passing the intended message and introducing new arguments which make conducting further research on this subject necessary.

Direction for future area of study

Communication theory’s application is vital when it comes to understanding family communication. Despite the existence of several studies that have been done on this subject, there is work that needs to be done in this field. The focus of the future step in the study of Relational Dialectics Theory within Families should be on the identification of the interaction challenges that different families face in regards to the changes in the family demographics. Various family setups experience differences in communication. They also have different experiences in regards to this communication. They also originate from different socio-cultural or contextual surroundings. Family studies’ field is intricate with various disciplines that overlap as well as the inquisition areas. Changes in the family context as well as the environment will impact on the approaches that will be embraced in handling family contradictions. Using focus groups and interviews in the future research will enhance the creation of preliminary comprehension of the practical solutions that are required by the new families’ demographics. The studies can address the issues of the communication modes that can be effective in solving as well as creating issues that will be found in different family demographics.

Communication is a field that is capable of chipping into comprehension of causes of the decline in the recognition of dialectical tensions that cause differences in marriages among partners in a relationship as founded on behaviors of individuals, differences in states behavior and expected behavior. Efforts will be re-focused on behaviors of the participants and interpersonal skills by dialectical approach to the interpersonal interactions that involve participants from various families. This will lead to a family unit that is more accommodative to variations in family demography. Future studies may be built on relational dialectics and family communication that already exists in studying instructional contexts where contemporary families may communicate while trying to handle contradiction that exists in a family. They should also try to answer questions like how people take actions or make choices as well as how the choices recreate, create or change dialectics in regard to the explanation of interactions in the contemporary family.


It is impossible to assume the role that is played by communication in solving and creating problems in a family due to the changes in the modern family’s nature. The role that communication plays in a family today should be acknowledged for positive results to be achieved for all family members. Considering that communication exists within the cultural perspective in a family context and that communication of call culture occurs in a family, culture should be included in communication. Further research ought to be done in relation to this topic considering that family demographic and environment is always changing. This will help in understanding communication in the context of a family clearer.



Baxter, L. A., & West, L. (2003). Couple perceptions of their similarities and differences: A

dialectical perspective. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships , 491–514.

Fitzpatrick, M. A., & Ritchie, D. L. (1993). Communication Theory and the Family. Source book

 of Family Theories and Methods , 565-589 .

Larry, A. E. (2000). Perceptions of dialectical contradictions in marital conflict. Journal of

 Social and Personal Relationships , 17 (4-5), 638–659.

Leslie, A. B. (2004). A Tale of Two Voices: Relational Dialectics Theory. The Journal of Family

 Communication , 181–192.

Lynn, H. T., & Richard, L. W. (2005). Perspectives on Family Communication. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.

Mumby, D. K. (2001). Theorizing resistance in organization studies: A dialectical approach.

ManagementCommunicationQuarterly , 19 (44), 441-460.

Owen, W. F. (1998). Interpretive themes in relational communication. QuarterlyJournal , 70,


Rawlins, W. K. (1992). Friendshipmatters: Communication,dialectics,and the life course. New

Jersey: TransactionPublishers.

Rebecca, J. D., & Emily, M. J. (2012). Using Relational Dialectics to Address Differences in

Community-Campus Partnerships. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and

 Engagemen , 151-175.

Vangelisti, A. L. (1993). Communication in the Family: The Influence of Time, Relation

Prototypes and Irrationality. Communication Monographs , 60, 42-54.