The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication

By William R. Cupach; Brian H. Spitzberg | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 11
THE DARK SIDE OF "NORMAL" FAMILY INTERACTION

Laura Stafford Marianne Dainton The Ohio State University

Despite the cozy family photographs in the album and all those family picnics and Christmas parties, there is also a dark side to families. Partly this is because we spend most of our time there, but it is also because of the intensities of emotion, both positive and negative, that are learned and experienced there.

-- Duck, 1992, p. 104

Although the mere mention of the dark side of family interaction conjures images of abused spouses and children and clinically disturbed families, there are darker elements of "normal" family interaction as well. However, when normal families are considered in research and popular culture, a positivity bias exists. Conjointly, the foci on the negative elements of dysfunctional families and the positive aspects of normal families have served to conceal the dark side of normal families. The purpose of this chapter is to illuminate some of the negative interactions of ordinary families. In so doing, we briefly consider some myths surrounding American families. Next, we center on potentially harmful interaction patterns within the family. Finally, we entertain the argument of the family as a subversive institution.

Before proceeding it is necessary to review what "normal" means. There are variations as to what constitutes normalcy (see Walsh, 1982). The most common use of the term normal references family health. Usually, a family is considered normal if pathology is absent from all members. Such families are often referred to as nonclinical or nonlabeled families.

A second view of normal permeates the American culture: normality as

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