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Moral Talk Across the Lifespan

Creating Good Relationships


Edited By Vince Waldron and Douglas Kelley

Grounded in path-breaking research but written in an accessible, engaging style Moral Talk Across the Lifespan explores how our most fundamental moral commitments are shaped by crucial conversations with family members, romantic partners, and friends. Taking a lifespan approach, the authors demonstrate that moral growth is a continual process, one stimulated by transitions (e.g., leaving home for university) and disruptive events (serious illness). With chapters penned by leading relationship scholars, the volume contributes original thinking, data, and innovative theoretical pathways for researchers. For instructors it explores pressing moral questions encountered by students in their own relationships with romantic partners, friends, parents, and other family members. When is revealing a secret the right thing to do? Is revenge ever a worthy response to an insult or sleight? Why are young adults persuaded to accept some of their parents’ values but not others? Is there a right (or wrong) way to support a parent facing a terminal illness?
Moral Talk Across the Lifespan offers a stimulating blend of social science research and moral reflection. It is a key text for courses in Relational Communication, Family Communication, Interpersonal Communication, and Communication Ethics.
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Introduction: In Search of the Good Relationship


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In Search of the Good Relationship


Welcome to a conversation that has been developing for several years among researchers and students of personal relationships—a conversation about the kinds of communication practices that make relationships good, in the moral sense of that word. This emerging dialogue has displaced what we perceive to be an implicit code of silence, a ban self-imposed by many of us in the name of social science. Until recently, to pose a research question about morality along with, say, queries about the appropriate statistical procedures for analyzing parent-child interaction, would seem anecdotal and inconsequential to the “real” purpose of relationship research. However, we strongly believe that “good” questions are essential to research on personal relationships.

Like awkward party guests (no comments from those who know us!), we are steering the conversation toward unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, moral themes. And, like teenagers at their first school dance, we decided not to dance alone. As you will see, the chapters contributed to this volume were penned by top researchers of family communication, both well-established sages and brilliant new voices. As scholars of family communication, we are self-invited guests stumbling at a late hour into a soirée on the ethics of communication—one convened long ago by colleagues who find their homes elsewhere in our diverse discipline (for exemplary reviews see Arneson, 2007; Arnett, Harden Fritz,...

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