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The Influence of Communication on Physiology and Health


Edited By James M. Honeycutt, Chris R. Sawyer and Shaughan Keaton

There is a significant amount of research that substantiates the connection between social support/relationships and the development, onset, and/or recovery of several physical diseases/illnesses. Research has shown, for example, that an unhappy marriage can increase the likelihood of becoming ill by 35% while stressful communication can lead to an increase in cardiovascular reactivity which in turn increases the risk of coronary heart disease and premature mortality.
This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the influences of communication on physiology and physical health status occurring in a variety of contexts, from families, interpersonal relationships, and public speaking to sport fandom, affection, fear, and the escalation of conflict. It offers a broad and up-to-date review of the relevant literature in this area of study.
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Chapter 7: Interparental Conflict and Parents’ Inappropriate Disclosures:Relations to Parents’ and Children’s Salivary α-Amylase and Cortisol


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Chapter 7

Interparental Conflict and Parents’ Inappropriate Disclosures: Relations to Parents’ and Children’s Salivary α-Amylase and Cortisol

Amanda Denes, Tamara D. Afifi, Douglas A. Granger, Andrea Joseph, and Desiree Aldeis

When parents have a conflicted relationship, the stress that results often spills over onto their children, whether parents realize it or not. One of the ways stress gets transmitted to children is through parents’ inappropriate disclosures about one another. These disclosures typically involve information that is “negatively valenced, hurtful toward the other parent, too sensitive for the child’s age, or that places the child in an uncomfortable position as a mediator, counselor, or friend” (Afifi, McManus, Hutchinson, & Baker, 2007, p. 79). When parents disclose inappropriate information about each other to their children, it increases children’s anxiety and depressive symptoms and ← 131 | 132 → feelings of being caught between their parents (e.g., Afifi, Afifi, Morse, & Hamrick, 2008; Koerner, Wallace, Lehman, & Raymond, 2002). Although inappropriate disclosures are typically only studied in divorced families, they also occur in non-divorced families when parents have a discordant relationship (Afifi & Schrodt, 2003).

Studies on divorce have almost exclusively relied on self-report methods to estimate its effects on children’s well-being. While these studies have allowed researchers to better understand the effects of conflict and disclosures on children’s subjective experiences and psychosocial adjustment, the accumulating pattern of findings begs questions as to whether these experiences also impact children physiologically. Indeed, new theoretical models conceptualize...

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