PRIVACY BINDS IN FAMILY INTERACTIONS: THE CASE OF PARENTAL PRIVACY INVASION
Sandra Petronio Arizona State University
To some, the notion of family privacy seems to be an oxymoron. But, as scholars like Berardo ( 1974) and Karpel ( 1980) have indicated, privacy provides important functions for family members. For example, privacy helps protect family members from outside scrutiny or gives the members a chance to try out arguments on each other without risk of humiliation. Clearly, knowing that information will be kept secure is comforting. Yet, there is more to the concept of family privacy than the issue of protection from outsiders. Understanding family privacy entails focusing on the way members manage privacy issues within the family as well as with nonfamily members. Within the family, members define territory, possessions, and information as belonging to them collectively, between certain members, or to individual members alone ( Altman, 1975; Karpel, 1980). In order to maintain privacy within the family unit, ownership recognition of space, information, and possessions by the members is necessary ( Petronio, 1991). One complicated task is determining when space, possessions, or information belongs to one or more of the members. For example, if information belongs to just one person, he or she has the right to protect the privacy of that information. If it belongs to more than one family member, those involved need to negotiate the rules for how the information is kept private or revealed. As families grow, communication increases about who has the right to control certain space, possessions, and information ( Wolfe & Laufer, 1974). These interactions are an attempt to manage privacy rights internally within the family structure.
For the most part, the attempts to manage privacy within the family are