Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Family Communication Patterns and Competitor Satisfaction: A National Survey of Collegiate Forensics Participants

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Family Communication Patterns and Competitor Satisfaction: A National Survey of Collegiate Forensics Participants

Article excerpt

In a special issue of The Forensic on the theme "Forensics and Family," guest editor Scott Jensen (2003) noted that, although family relationships are usually our most important relationships, they often are secondary to forensics education and competition. This special issue helped direct attention to the role of family in forensics, and to its importance to the health of the activity and those who participate in it. Frequently, the phrase forensics family is used metaphorically to refer to the close relationships among participants. Hobbs, Hobbs, Veuleman and Redding (2003) observed that this metaphor also could refer to dysfunctional practices such as verbal attack, criticism, trivializing, and threatening, which can be found in both families and forensics programs. Yet, in spite of conflict behaviors that may emerge from time to time, in this type of family culture members display loyalty toward and provide support for one another (Wambolt & Reiss, 1989).

Sometimes this family includes partners who both participate in forensics (Gilstrap & Gilstrap, 2003). Sometimes this family involves kinship and responsibilities for nurturance of children. This project examines actual families (including parents, siblings, and grandparents) in which a child competes in forensics. As Williams and Hughes (2003) note:

[M]ost people understand the references to "we are a baseball family," "we are a band family" or "we are a 4H family" to mean that one or more of the family members participates in that activity and the activity is considered of some importance to the family. The phrase "we are a forensic family," however, rarely carries the connotation of involving people outside of participation in the activity. (p. 29)

Consequently, this study investigated the relationship between parents' knowledge about intercollegiate forensics and their communication with children who are competitors. We sought to determine whether there is a relationship between parents' knowledge of forensics and the degree of communication satisfaction experienced by the student.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Satisfying communication is central to a stable and supportive family structure (Walsh, 1993). Frequently, communication amongst family members is grounded in repeated rituals such as church services, family vacations, and other gatherings, which enable the family to become and remain cohesive (Wolin & Bennett, 1984).

Families also must adjust to, and maintain a balance between, connectedness and individuality. Although the balance struck probably shifts over time, families nonetheless attempt to identify how much time they need to spend together and how much members require in order to develop and express their individuality. Occasions involving too much or too little connectedness may result in stress (Kantor & Lehr, 197,5).

When a child attends college, a number of factors (e.g., distance, new interests and perspectives, time commitments) can intervene to disrupt family equilibrium, alter communication patterns, and affect levels of communication satisfaction. Research on college student retention and student satisfaction suggests that students' interactions with family can play an important role in their educational experience. Positive interactions between college students and their families are associated with stronger college identities, better grades, increased satisfaction with the college experience, and higher retention rates (Chernin & Goldsmith, 1986; Mallinckrodt, 1988).

Research among student-athletes has found that positive interactions between students and their families have contributed to other beneficial outcomes for both student and program. Granskog (1992) reported that student-athletes who have satisfying family interactions are more likely to view themselves as an integral member of their team. Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf, Medbery, and Peterson (1999) even discovered that student-athletes with positive family interactions tend to perform better in their sport. …

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