Social construction theory: Communication co-creating families

Dawn O. Braithwaite, Elissa Foster, Karla M. Bergen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Because “family” is a pervasive and institutionalized social form, it can be challenging to think about it as created in interaction rather than an inevitable reality. Cases that disrupt our assumptions about family can be helpful to illustrate the socially constructed aspects of family life. Consider the following story offered by Baglia and Foster (2013) as they experienced negotiating life as an unmarried family: We have been surprised at how others, especially close friends and even family, often introduce one or other of us as ‘Jay’s wife’ or ‘Elissa’s husband.’ We recognize that this faux pas is not likely malicious; rather, it is merely the result of entrenched language assumptions and cultural scripts … [One day] Elissa encountered a new signifier to encapsulate her relationship with Jay. As she traveled alone with the baby, one of the hotel porters, Larry, had taken a special interest in ensuring a safe and easy transition into the hotel and invited her to call him for a ride back to the airport. As they made the brief journey the next day, their conversation turned to the subject of the economy and jobs-both expressing that they felt fortunate to be working. Elissa mentioned that her ‘partner’ worked at a university in Pennsylvania that had just learned about proposed massive state cutbacks. Larry queried, ‘Who is this you’re talking about?’ ‘My partner. My daughter’s father,” Elissa amended, having been reminded once again how inadequate the term ‘partner’ can be sometimes. After a few more exchanges, Larry asked, ‘Is your baby’s daddy worried about whether he will lose his job?’ And while the conversation continued without pause, Elissa could not help but smile inwardly and begin to reflect on what it meant to have Jay referred to as her ‘baby’s daddy.’(Baglia and Foster, 2013, pp. 89-90).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEngaging Theories in Family Communication
Subtitle of host publicationMultiple Perspectives
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781351790680
ISBN (Print)9781138700932
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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