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Communication in
Family Contexts Textbook

An innovative, student-friendly textbook covering the major elements of the field of Family Communication.

Family Communication, a rapidly growing sub-discipline within Communication Studies, explores the processes and factors involved in family interactions and relationships. Communication in Family Contexts is a clear and accessible survey of the essential principles, theories, and concepts of the field. Unlike textbooks that present a vast amount of material across only a few chapters—this innovative textbook features brief, easily-understood chapters ideally-suited for undergraduate courses on the subject.

The text provides concise yet comprehensive coverage of a diverse range of topics, from fundamental aspects of caretaking and sibling communication, to topics not covered in other textbooks such as estrangement and marginalization. 33 chapters cover theories of family communication, family communication processes, and communicating in family relationships. The authors, noted researchers and educators in the field, complement discussions of standard topics with those of growing contemporary interest, such as LGBTQ family communication, step-family and half-sibling relationships, and the influence of technology on family.


This textbook:

  • Provides a well-rounded examination of the major elements of Family Communication studies

  • Explains the foundational theories of the field, including Family Communication Patterns Theory and Relational Dialectics Theory

  • Features numerous practical application exercises to enable students apply theory to practice

  • Includes a complete set pedagogical features, such as case studies, visualizations and models of theories, illustrations, and discussion questions

  • Offers a flexible organizational structure that allows instructors to pick and choose chapters to meet the needs of their courses


Communication in Family Contexts: Theories and Processes is an important resource for instructors and students in the field of family communication, the wider discipline of Communication Studies, and related areas such as social psychology and sociology.


Family Cycling in Woods

Leslie Nelson, California Polytechnic State University

This family communication textbook is pure gold. From a faculty perspective, it provides a comprehensive yet focused look at family communication theories, processes, and contexts that are especially relevant in the discipline today. It is easy to combine chapters (as they are relatively short in length) into larger discussion topics -- giving students exposure to, and a more holistic understanding of, the family communication field overall. Moreover, the weaving in of prominent research study findings and case studies helps to further contextualize the content of each chapter for students. Additionally, I have heard nothing but rave reviews from my students. They often cite the length of the chapters and focused approach to be especially conducive to their learning and retainment of the material. They also report that the case studies help crystallize the main points from each chapter and the discussion questions are interesting to ponder and consider both personally and with their own families. All this is to say, I highly recommend this textbook. It has revolutionized my own teaching of family communication and hope it does the same for you.

Tropical Leaves

Amanda Holmstrom, Michigan State University

I used the textbook in my Fall 2018 upper-division family communication class at Michigan State University. I used it as a supplement to another textbook that I had used in the past. However, Dorrance Hall and Scharp’s book would work well as a stand-alone text, particularly if instructors bundled related chapters each week – which I did on multiple occasions. I highly recommend this text as an up-to-date, focused introduction to pertinent topics and theories in the field. Students found it very accessible.

Young Family with Pet Dog

Tiffany Wang, The University of Montevallo

"Communication in family contexts: Applying theories and processes to family relationships" provides a clear and straightforward introduction to family communication that is an excellent fit for the undergraduate classroom. I especially like how each chapter is concise enough that the instructor has the flexibility to add additional readings and activities that complement each chapter.

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