Family communication theories are coherent accounts of family communication processes and family relationships that provide explanations for phenomena of interests, which frequently are the relationships or communication behaviors themselves or their outcomes for family members. As such, family communication theories are central to any investigation of family communication processes and of outcomes that might be affected by them. Family communication theories stem from a number of different academic disciplines and are based on a wide range of methodologies, ranging from critical to scientific. As a result, there is substantial disagreement about the very nature of theory, the role theory plays in research, and the appropriate methods for studying family communication. This entry provides an overview of the theoretical approaches that are most frequently found in family communication research and introduces a few of the more influential theories in some detail.

Research on family communication is not an exclusive domain of communication scholars. Rather, academic interest in families and their communication exists in a number of academic disciplines, including child development, family social sciences psychology, and sociology. As a result, there exist many very different theories related to family communication that create very divergent accounts of family communication. Contributing to this diversity is the fact that as a discipline, communication is a relative newcomer compared to other disciplines, which have much longer histories of interest in family communication processes, their antecedents, and outcomes.

Thus, most theories of family communication originated outside the communication discipline and often share the particular assumptions and biases of the disciplines from which they originated. Even among those theories used in family communication research that originated from within the communication discipline, a majority was not developed explicitly with family communication in mind, but rather in regard to interpersonal communication more generally or in regard to specific communication processes that happen to also take place in the family context, such as self-disclosure or uncertainty reduction. As a consequence, family communication theories vary widely in the basic assumptions they make about what is important for family communication, what explains communication behaviors, and what effects communication has on other variables.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.450

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Gayes Mahestu
Edwina Ayu Kustiawan