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Attributions and Outcomes: Hurtful Communication in Families
Unformatted Document Text:  Attributions and Outcomes 3 Attributions and Outcomes: Hurtful Communication in Families Family relationships represent a unique and, thus far, relatively unexamined context for hurtful communication (Vangelisti, 1994; Vangelisti & Crumley, 1998). The involuntary context provided by families is evident in that, regardless of how family members may behave, there is an understood sense of permanence in family relationships that may affect the nature and consequences of hurtful communication. Furthermore, the history shared by family members may create a distinct environment for interpreting and reacting to hurtful communication, because hurtful messages are only a small portion of their shared experience (Vangelisti & Crumley, 1998). Vangelisti (1993) argued that in the context of family relationships negatively valenced emotions, like hurtful messages, would seem more intense and less rational to outside observers than in other relationships. First, family members may experience a dilemma when making attributions about other family members’ negative communication behaviors. Whether the family member makes a positive or negative attribution, this attribution and the communication that follows may seem irrational to others outside the family. Second, because of the relative length of family relationships, there is more often an opportunity for one family member to interrupt another’s usual behavior, thereby evoking intense emotions (Vangelisti, 1993). Since family members anticipate a lengthy future together, they assume they will have the opportunity to fix any relationship troubles and often feel less of a need to be polite (Brown & Levinson, 1987). From a communication perspective, a critical concern is how people respond when they are hurt. Only one study has specifically attempted to focus on people’s responses to hurtful messages, and while the findings yielded interesting information about peoples communicative

Authors: Young, Stacy., Kubicka, Tara., Tucker, Caralyn., McCoy, Jamie., Kanaan, Kanaan., Johnson, Jarvis., Chavez-Appel, Desi. and Dinger, Michelle.
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Attributions and Outcomes
3
Attributions and Outcomes: Hurtful Communication in Families
Family relationships represent a unique and, thus far, relatively unexamined context for
hurtful communication (Vangelisti, 1994; Vangelisti & Crumley, 1998). The involuntary context
provided by families is evident in that, regardless of how family members may behave, there is
an understood sense of permanence in family relationships that may affect the nature and
consequences of hurtful communication. Furthermore, the history shared by family members
may create a distinct environment for interpreting and reacting to hurtful communication,
because hurtful messages are only a small portion of their shared experience (Vangelisti &
Crumley, 1998).
Vangelisti (1993) argued that in the context of family relationships negatively valenced
emotions, like hurtful messages, would seem more intense and less rational to outside observers
than in other relationships. First, family members may experience a dilemma when making
attributions about other family members’ negative communication behaviors. Whether the
family member makes a positive or negative attribution, this attribution and the communication
that follows may seem irrational to others outside the family. Second, because of the relative
length of family relationships, there is more often an opportunity for one family member to
interrupt another’s usual behavior, thereby evoking intense emotions (Vangelisti, 1993). Since
family members anticipate a lengthy future together, they assume they will have the opportunity
to fix any relationship troubles and often feel less of a need to be polite (Brown & Levinson,
1987).
From a communication perspective, a critical concern is how people respond when they
are hurt. Only one study has specifically attempted to focus on people’s responses to hurtful
messages, and while the findings yielded interesting information about peoples communicative


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