Chapter 7: Power, Infuence and Decision-Making

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  • 1. POWER, INFLUENCE AND DECISION-MAKING “ So children learn about power not just from what their parents try to teach them but also from observing their parents’ interactions with them, with each other, and with other persons inside and outside the family.” (Hilary M. Lips)
  • 2. POWER, INFLUENCE & DECISION-MAKING
    • These concepts are intertwined within families. One’s power in a family affects his/her influence , which can affect when and how decisions are are made.
    • However, each concept is unique and important – especially within families.
  • 3. POWER
    • Each family member exercises a certain degree of power in order to have some control over his or her life.
    • Examples (that I hear at my house):
      • “ Leave me alone!” “Get out of my room!”
      • “ I don’t want to” “Turn the channel please”
      • “ It’s his turn” “No!”
    • The use of this power produces changes that either improve or hinder family members’ satisfaction.
  • 4. POWER IN FAMILIES
    • Power operates transactionally in a family. This means that it does not belong to an individual – but rather is an aspect of the relationship between two or more persons.
      • Think of “tug-of-war”….the rope represents power, and each set of hands represents a relationship in the family. Without both sets of hands, the rope is just a rope.
    • Additionally, every time power is employed in a system (like a family), it has system-wide effects.
      • As one or more members exert power (or respond to others’ power moves), the whole system adjusts accordingly.
  • 5. POWER IN FAMILIES: CHANGES OVER TIME
    • The power dimension in a family system varies over time, depending on:
      • Family structure
      • Developmental stages
      • Transitions
      • Stresses
      • Family resources
    • How has the “power” in your family changed over time? Examples?
  • 6. POWER IN FAMILY SYSTEMS
    • According to McDonald (1980), power has three important aspects – all of which affect communication in families:
      • Power Bases
      • Power Processes
      • Power Outcomes
  • 7. 1.) POWER BASES
    • The bases of family power are resources used by family members to increase their ability to have control in a specific situation.
    • McDonald (1980) asserts that there are 5 power bases in families: normative, economic, affective, personal and cognitive.
    • Not all power bases are used all of the time. Some may never be used, while others may be used only by certain members of the family and/or in certain situations.
  • 8. MCDONALD’S FIVE POWER BASES
      • Normative: family values/norms. In other words, the perceived role expectations and obligations of family members.
      • Economic Resources: the monetary control that the breadwinner and/or the financial decision-maker has within a family.
      • Affective Resources: reflect who in the family nurtures others and when.
      • Personal Resources: each family member’s personality, physical appearance and role.
      • Cognitive Resources: refers to using intelligence to logically determine what power options are available.
  • 9. 2.) POWER PROCESSES
    • Power processes are family communication practices that affect family discussions, arguments, decisions and crisis situations.
    • These processes attempt to control others through:
      • Influence
      • Persuasion
      • Assertiveness
  • 10. POWER PROCESSES: EXAMPLES
    • “ The Loud (and Frequent) Talker”
      • Research shows that (not surprisingly), family members who talk most frequently, and for the longest periods of time are dominant (but not always the most powerful).
      • Those who receive the most communication are the most powerful.
      • Effective communicators adapt their messages to different family members and situations.
  • 11. POWER PROCESSES: EXAMPLES
    • “ Who Wears the Pants”
      • High levels of marital satisfaction occur most frequently among egalitarian couples, followed by husband-dominated couples and least among wife-dominated couples.
  • 12. POWER PROCESSES: EXAMPLES
    • Mixed Messages
      • All messages are created by BOTH senders and receivers. Family members may send mixed messages, which makes it difficult to understand.
      • This occurs (in families) when a person:
        • Says one thing, but means another
        • Displays conflicting nonverbal cues
  • 13. POWER PROCESSES: EXAMPLES
    • The Family Secret
      • When a family member has a secret, the power structure within a family can quickly change.
    • Ill or Dysfunctional Family Members
      • Messages created by ill or dysfunctional members can also influence family power.
        • Alcoholism
        • Mental Health Issues
        • Chronic Illness
  • 14. 3.) POWER OUTCOMES
    • Power outcomes are basically “who makes the decisions, and who wins.”
      • Here, there is a “winner” and a “loser.”
      • Inherently, someone gets his or her way, or receives rights or privileges of leadership.
    • This is most often due to control through decision-making and the context surrounding the situation.
  • 15. HOW IS POWER DEVELOPED IN FAMILIES?
    • In families, power develops through a transactional process (between two or more people).
    • There are two types of power that are most often discussed in relation to families:
      • Spouses and Power
      • Children and Power
  • 16. SPOUSES & POWER
    • Spousal authority may be examined by the ways in which each spouse exercises authority. The spouse with the greater range of authority is often seen as having more power.
    • Four authority types describe the ways in which married couples divide authority:
      • Wife-Dominated
      • Husband-Dominated
      • Syncratic: shared authority/joint decision-making
      • Autonomic: each spouse has relatively equal authority, but in different areas.
  • 17. CHILDREN AND POWER
    • Traditionally, parents are expected to control (and be responsible) for their children’s behavior. In fact, the law places power in the parents’ hands.
    • However, children struggle to gain power in order to:
      • Establish their position in the family
      • To gain certain resources
      • To establish an identity.
    • Children also influence the interaction and outcomes of power struggles by using “power plays”:
      • Acting out
      • Keeping secrets
      • Forming alliances with one parent over another
  • 18. COMMUNICATION AND POWER
    • Communication within families can affect power – when met with a response that engages them. Remember…. it takes two to tango!
    • It’s important to remember that families engage in transactional communication!
  • 19. COMMUNICATION AND POWER
    • Confirming: implies acknowledgement
      • (the careful, nonjudgemental listener)
    • Disconfirming: implies punishment
      • (the silent treatment)
    • Rejecting: tie directly to punishment messages, and are used as control in family power plays.
      • (“I hate you!” or “I don’t care what you say!”)
    • Self-Disclosure: information power
      • (differences in men and women)
    • Dominance: the sending of verbal messages claiming the right to dominate (and the receiver accepting those messages)
  • 20. INFLUENCE
    • Influence occurs when family members use their power to try to change or modify each other’s behavior or beliefs.
    • Influence is a fundamental part of everyday interactions with family members.
  • 21. TYPES OF INFLUENCE STRATEGIES
    • Classic Research by Marwell & Schmitt (1967): Identified 16 influence strategies that people use in their daily interactions.
    • Can be thought of as:
      • Direct (bargaining, reasoning, asking)
      • Indirect (hinting, withdrawal)
      • Unilateral (telling, withdrawal)
      • Bilateral (bargaining, hinting)
  • 22. 16 COMPLIANCE-GAINING TECHNIQUES
    • Promise: If you comply, I will reward you.
    • Threat: If you do not comply, I will punish you
    • Expertise (Positive): If you comply, you will be rewarded because of “the nature of things.”
        • You point out to Eric that if he gets good grades, he will be able to get into a good college and get a good job.
    • Expertise (Negative): If you do not comply, you will be punished because of “the nature of things.”
    • Liking: You try to be friendly and helpful to get the other person to be in a good “frame of mind” so that s/he will be more likely to comply with your request.
    • Pre-Giving: You reward the other person BEFORE requesting anything.
        • You raise Eric’s allowance and tell him you now expect him to study.
  • 23.
    • Aversive Stimulation: you continuously punish the person until they have to comply.
      • You forbid Eric the use of the car, and tell him he will not be allowed to drive until he studies more.
    • Debt: you owe me compliance because of past favors.
    • Moral Appeal: You are immoral if you do not comply.
    • Self-Feeling (Positive): You will feel better about yourself if you comply.
    • Self-Feeling (Negative): You will feel worse about yourself if you do not comply.
    • Altercasting (Positive): A person with “good” qualities would comply.
      • You tell Eric that since he is a mature and intelligent person, he naturally will want to study more and get good grades.
  • 24.
    • Altercasting (Negative): Only a person with “bad” qualities would not comply.
    • Altruism: I need your compliance very badly, so do it for me.
    • Esteem (Positive): People you value will think better of you if you comply.
    • Esteem (Negative): People you value will think worse of you if you do not comply.
  • 25. TYPES OF INFLUENCE STRATEGIES
    • It is important to note that certain influence strategies are more likely to be used in specific situations.
    • (Palan & Wilkes) Adolescents tend to use:
      • Bargaining – offering to pay for some of the item, offering to do something to get the item, reasoning with arguments, or making negotiations
      • Persuasion – giving opinion, asking repetitively, begging or whining
      • Emotional – showing anger, pouting, “sweet-talking,” or making parents feel guilty.
      • Request – directly asking, expressing a need or want, demanding.
  • 26. GOALS-PLANS-ACTION THEORIES
    • Wilson & Morgan (2006) help explain influence strategies in family communication using goals and plans.
    • Individuals form and pursue goals during their interactions with others, and that family members’ interdependence affects these goals and plans.
      • My son’s goal might be to get a cell phone. However, he fears I won’t agree to this so his plan is to talk to his Dad first so that he can discuss it with me.
  • 27. FACTORS AFFECTING INFLUENCE STRATEGY USE
    • What influence strategies are used, and when?
    • It depends on: what outcome you are looking for, the closeness and relational history, the power bases you have in relation to that family member, etc, gender and age, the culture of the family, etc.
  • 28. DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS
    • Decision-making in families is the process by which family members make choices, reach judgments or arrive at solutions that end uncertainty.
    • Obviously, power, influence and decision-making are closely tied together in families
  • 29. TYPES OF DECISIONS
    • Decision-making, like power, is a process that belongs to the family system , not to an individual.
    • Can be either instrumental or affective.
    • Instrumental Decisions: require solving functional issues, such as getting a job to pay bills, or providing transportation. Tend to be more basic.
    • Affective Decisions: relate to emotions or feelings.
  • 30. TYPES OF DECISION-MAKING
    • Each family has its own way of reaching decisions on issues. Decisions can be reached by:
      • Consensus: involves discussion that continues until agreement is reached. This may require flexibility and compromise. Everyone in the family has a part in the decision, and the opportunity to influence. In the end, the solution is acceptable to all involved.
      • Accommodation: occurs when some family members consent to a decision, not because they agree, but because they feel that further discussion will be unproductive.
      • DeFacto: this occurs when one member of the family moves ahead and acts without a clear-cut decision. It is made without direct family approval, but made to keep the family functioning.
  • 31. STYLES OF DECISION-MAKING
    • “ I Win; You Lose” (Zero-Sum): this usually occurs in conflict situations. Basically, you insist on your own way. This requires coercive power – especially the use of fear and threat.
  • 32. STYLES OF DECISION-MAKING
    • Decisions via Rules: involves the creation and enforcement of rules. There are three types of rules in family decision-making:
      • Rules for dividing resources
      • Rules for assigning responsibility
      • Rules for negotiation
  • 33. STYLES OF DECISION-MAKING
    • Principle (or Contract): family members operate on principles of fairness and care. Based on a belief in the basic human needs of each family member and a desire to put the family’s welfare above individual concerns. Principles are sometimes stated overtly – such as in family themes and rules – other times they are conveyed through key family stories.
  • 34. PHASES IN DECISION-MAKING
    • Most family decision-making goes through a series of phases to reach a satisfactory or unsatisfactory decisions.
    • The family problem-solving loop, developed by Kieren, Maguire and Hurlbut, is a good way to think about this. It illustrates the phases of decision-making developed in the path families take when they make decisions.
      • It breaks the process down into eight steps. Each of the eight steps marks the beginnings/endings of different patterns of interaction in problem-solving.
  • 35. FAMILY PROBLEM-SOLVING LOOP
  • 36. PHASES IN DECISION-MAKING
    • Phase 1: Identification/Clarifiation
      • Includes steps 1, 2 and 3
    • Phase 2: Alternatives
      • Covers steps 4 and 5
    • Phase 3: Consensus Building
      • Step 6
    • Phase 4: The Decision
      • Covers steps 7 and 8
  • 37. IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER
    • Decisions are never as simple as they appear.
      • The process may be short-circuited at any point.
      • A family may reach a decision by skipping steps.
      • It may be hard to figure out which phases are being used in the decision-making process.
      • Some families tend not to follow steps in problem-solving.
    • There are many factors that affect decision-making. Specifically:
      • Children
      • Gender Influences
      • Individual Involvement
      • Outside Influences