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Navigating Relationships in the Modern Family

Communication, Identity, and Difference


Edited By Jordan Soliz and Colleen Warner Colaner

Despite growing recognition of the diversity of family forms and structures, discourses among family scholars and practitioners as well as in popular culture continue to operate from the assumption that families are fairly homogeneous in terms of the values and beliefs, social positions, and identities of individual family members. Navigating Relationships in the Modern Family provides a unique and important perspective on how communication within and about families related to issues of identity and difference can ameliorate negative processes and, at times, potentially amplify positive outcomes such as well-being and relational solidarity. Chapters in this edited volume focus on divergent social identities in the family (e.g., interfaith families, multiethnic-racial families, acculturation and immigration) as well as differences emerging from family formative processes (e.g., stepfamilies, in-law relationships, foster care). In addition to synthesizing the current state of the scholarship in these particular family contexts, each chapter discusses the interplay between families and the larger social and cultural context. For instance, how does grandparent-grandchild communication influence attitudes toward older adults and aging? Can we improve interfaith dialogue in larger societal interactions by understanding communication in interfaith families? How do ideologies of social class and social discourses about adoption and foster care influence family functioning? Chapters conclude with a discussion on implications for scholars and family practitioners. The edited volume would make an ideal primary or secondary required text for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses on families as well as specialized family courses on understudied family relationships and forms. The volume also serves as an important resource for family scholars and practitioners.

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4. Communication and Political Difference in the Family (Benjamin R. Warner and Jihye Park)


4. Communication and Political Difference in the Family

Benjamin R. Warner and Jihye Park

Ruth Dorancy changed her wedding plans after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She moved the location from the United States (where she lives) to Italy so that her relatives would be unable to attend. In explaining her decision to the New York Times, she said of her family, “I just don’t want them around me on the most important day of my life” (Tavernise & Seelye, 2016, para. 7). Dorancy knew that some of her family had voted for Donald Trump, a decision she described as “a rejection of everyone who looks like me” (Tavernise & Seelye, 2016, para. 6). Dorancy’s story is but one example of an apparent trend in which strife resulting from the 2016 election reduced the time families spent together. For example, using anonymized data from over 10 million smart phones and precinct-level information about vote-share in the 2016 election, Chen and Rohla (2018) estimated that political disagreement cut Thanksgiving dinners by almost an hour in the weeks following the 2016 election. They estimated that the partisan fallout of the election resulted in a loss of almost 74 million hours of time with the family.

Political disagreement not only reduces the time family spends with one another, it also diminishes people’s desire to discuss politics. Pew Research Center found that 65% of U.S. adults reported that most of their family members agreed with them about politics...

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