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The Handbook of Lifespan Communication

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Jon F. Nussbaum

The Handbook of Lifespan Communication is the foundational scholarly text that offers readers a state of the art view of the varied and rich areas of lifespan communication research. The fundamental assumptions of lifespan communication are that the very nature of human communication is developmental, and, to truly understand communication, change across time must be incorporated into existing theory and research. Beginning with chapters on lifespan communication theory and methodologies, chapters are then organized into the various phases of life: early childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Top scholars across several disciplines have contributed to chapters within their domains of expertise, highlighting significant horizons that will guide researchers for years to come.
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Chapter One: Lifespan Communication Theory

← 8 | 9 →CHAPTER ONE

Extract

JAKE HARWOOD

We age not only chronologically, but also communicatively. Our chronological progression is marked and shaped by communicative actions (sometimes congratulatory, often commiserative), and our communication styles and preferences change as a result of aging (our own and others’). In this chapter, I examine how existing lifespan theory can be expanded by incorporating a communication focus and the ways in which contemporary communication theory utilizes or would benefit from a lifespan perspective. The scope here is obviously huge, and hence I consider only a subset of the potentially relevant theories. Broader reviews of theory and the empirical literature are available, and interested readers should view those as complementary sources (e.g., Harwood, 2007; Nussbaum, Pecchioni, Baringer, & Kundrat, 2002; Pecchioni, Wright, & Nussbaum, 2005). Other chapters in this handbook also address additional perspectives that are equally interesting and valid. This chapter will focus on the later portion of the lifespan. Most of the general principles could be addressed to lifespan development at any age, but the specifics pertain primarily to older adulthood.

The chapter begins by outlining the broad parameters of a lifespan perspective (derived from multiple sources, notably P. Baltes, 1987), and then delineating specific roles that communication can be seen as playing in social life. Then, I discuss specific theoretical issues in a manner organized by place of communication in the perspective. In closing, I briefly describe how one theoretical perspective (communication accommodation theory: Giles, Coupland, & Coupland, 1991) offers particular promise in addressing...

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