Influences on Family Communication: Culture, Gender & Technology

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

We communicate with all sorts of people, so what makes families any different? In this lesson, we are going to look a bit closer at communication within the family and discover what sort of influences play into how, when, and why we even try.

Family Communication

This is a family. So is this, and this. Actually, these are all families. People connected to each other are, at the most fundamental level. Across the world, families look different but they do have a few things in common. For one, they can all drive us crazy and, for two, they all have unique systems of communication. You see, we communicate with all sorts of people throughout our lives but those communications are always distinct to that relationship. We communicate one way with friends, one way with co-workers, another with strangers. But families? Well, family communication may be the most important of all. Many social scientists consider the family to be the base unit for all of society, the building block of all social relationships.

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  • 00:00 Family Communication
  • 1:04 Cultural Influences
  • 3:28 Gender and Communication
  • 4:22 Technology & Communication
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Cultural Influences

You learn first through your family cultural values, self-identification, social roles, gender expectations, and yes, even communication. So, how families communicate is important, and there can be several influences on what this looks like. Let's start with one of the most basic, culture. Culture influences all things, so it's no surprise to learn that different cultures have different beliefs about how families should communicate.

We've got two families here from two different cultures. So, let's look at their communication habits, starting with communication orientation, or degree of interaction between family members. The family on the left comes from a high conversation orientation culture, where communication is unrestricted between various family members, regardless of age or position in the family. Most decisions are made together and everyone feels comfortable discussing a wide range of topics, from politics, to sex, to what they had for lunch.

The other family has low conversation orientation, meaning that communication between family members can be restricted. Certain topics are not discussed, parents may not be as open with their children, and frequent communication is not a goal. This family isn't any less loving or affectionate, they just have different cultural values about communication.

The other distinction we can make with culture is that of conformity orientation, or degree of conformity within a family. This family on the right that restricts some communication expects a high conformity orientation. In this system, children are expected to embrace family attitudes and behaviors, and their communication reflects that, placing lots of emphasis on the importance of traditions and customs. Since parents make decisions, and children are expected to obey, communication is not generally set up for debates. The family on the left however, has low conformity orientation, characterized by diversity of beliefs, individuality, and growth outside of the family. While this family is open with communication, the low conformity orientation also means that individuals need their alone time and space away from others. Their communication can reflect that.

Gender and Communication

There is one sub-set of culture that deserves special mention in terms of family communication. Gender is the set of cultural beliefs regarding the behavior of people of different sexes. In many cultures, gender can be a very strong part of personal identity, and this can impact how families communicate.

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