Academic journal article Communication Studies

Small Group Relational Satisfaction Scale: Development, Reliability and Validity

Academic journal article Communication Studies

Small Group Relational Satisfaction Scale: Development, Reliability and Validity

Article excerpt

Relational communication in small groups is a socially-oriented process that concerns intimacy and affection among members (Burgoon & Hale, 1987). Additionally, relational communication includes both a cooperative and collaborative attitude among group members (Hirokawa & Keyton, 1995). Recently, Keyton (1999b) specifically defined relational communication as the "the verbal and nonverbal messages that create the social fabric of a group by promoting relationships between and among group members" (p. 192). Building on these ideas, the authors of the present studies conceptualized relational satisfaction as the building and maintaining of member relationships during communicative processes and practices throughout the life span of the group.

The present studies extend concepts surrounding relational communication in groups by introducing the Relational Satisfaction Scale (RSS) designed to measure people's perceptions of the social fabric of group experiences. Study 1 and Study 2 address the usefulness of the RSS and issues of reliability and validity. In Study 1, established communication variables-attitudes about group work, assertiveness, responsiveness and feedback-were investigated as predictors of relational satisfaction. In Study 2, cohesion, consensus and loneliness were useful group concepts for examining the concurrent validity of the relational satisfaction construct and scale.

RELATIONAL SATISFACTION SCALE

Communication satisfaction can be defined as a felt experience (Hecht, 1978) or as a perception about the quality of group life that exists (Pavitt & Curtis, 1998). Satisfaction with intragroup relations is generally accepted as a maintenance dimension of group work. The maintenance dimension is interdependent with the task dimension of group work, not just because of its influences on the quality of group life, but also because of the influences on group outputs (Keyton, 1999b). In fact, relational satisfaction among members seems to offer one explanation for why some task groups succeed and others fail. Although some communication models exist that illustrate group processes, such as participation in discussion (Bonito & Hollingshead, 1997), problem-solving behaviors (Jarboe, 1988), and socialization processes and practices (Anderson, Riddle, & Martin, 1999), the models fail to adequately capture the essence of relational satisfaction with the communication among members. One reason may be the absence of an appropriate measurement instrument.

Group scholars employ a variety of instruments to measure satisfaction with the communication in groups and with group relationships. As one example, researchers have used a contextual version of Hecht's (1978) 16-item Communication Satisfaction Scale (i.e., "Group members let me know that I communicate effectively.") for measuring satisfaction with the communication (Anderson & Martin, 1995b, 1999). The items address the verbal and nonverbal messages that occur during group processes. For another example, DeStephen and Hirokawa (1988) used principle components factor analysis (varimax rotation) to report a five-factor Consensus Scale tapping member's feelings regarding: (a) the group decision, (b) the decision process, (c) individual participation in decision making, (d) member's contribution, and (e) relationships. For the relationship dimension, there are three items ("This group was a place where people could feel comfortable expressing themselves. I like the members of my group. I would like to work with members of my group on another similar project."). DeStephen and Hirokawa reported that the five dimensions accounted for 60% of the variance, with the largest segment of the variance (32.3%) attributed to feelings about the group decision and the second largest (14%) attributed to individual participation. Although the scales discussed above have been useful, it seems appropriate to examine relational communication satisfaction apart from frameworks that designed instruments to measure communication satisfaction, consensus or cohesion (see Carron & Brawley, 2000; Carless, 2000, for discussion of cohesion). …

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