Family Collage: The O.C. An Analysis of the Cohen FamilyKatie GlencrossCMS 332: Communication in the Family
Family Characters• Sandy Cohen – Sandy is considered the moral center of the family; he often gives guidance and advice to both of his sons. He has a law degree, and works as a public defender.• Kirsten Cohen – She is considered the breadwinner of the family. She works at her father’s company, which is a very successful real estate business.
Family Characters, Continued• Seth Cohen – Seth is the biological child of Sandy and Kirsten Cohen. Seth likes comic books and indie music, and often uses humor as a defense mechanism.• Ryan Atwood – Ryan was adopted by Sandy, who was originally his lawyer. Unlike the Cohens, who are affluent, Ryan’s biological family is poor and his mom is an abusive alcoholic.
The Cohen Family• The Cohen Family is an example of a blended family, which our book describes as one that “consists of two adults and their children, all of whom are not from the union of their relationship” (9). This is true, since Ryan was adopted into the family.
Authority Structure• The Cohens are an example of an egalitarian marriage, which our book describes as a marriage in which “both partners wish to jointly share home responsibilities as well as take advantage of career opportunities. Power is to be shared” (171).
Authority Structure, Continued• Although Kirsten starts out as the breadwinner, Sandy fills the role as CEO of the real estate business after the death of her father.• Both parents have very open lines of communication with their sons.
Communication• Communication rules are “shared understandings of what communication means and what kinds of communication are appropriate in various situations” (83).• One of the communication rules in the Cohen family is that they will openly discuss sex with their children. When Seth needs sex advice, he feels comfortable talking to Sandy about his problems.
Traditions and Rituals• Sandy is Jewish, and Kirsten is Protestant, so their union brought about the celebration of a holiday called ‘Chrismukkah’ for the children. This is an example of how the union of two different cultures led to the creation of a new ritual for family celebrations.
Barriers to Intimacy• “Jealousy is an aversive emotional experience characterized by feelings of anger, sadness, and fear induced by the threat or actual loss of a relationship with another person to a real or imagined rival” (146).• There is an underlying theme of jealousy and mistrust with the Cohen’s next door neighbor, Jimmy Cooper, who was Kirsten’s high school sweetheart.
Barriers to Intimacy, Continued• Kirsten’s fear that her husband was cheating on her with an ex- girlfriend that came back to town led to an increased reliance on alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Alcoholism and Family Stress• “Alcoholism distorts a family’s patterns of behavior and communication, affecting all members” (296).• In addition to Ryan’s biological mother struggling with addiction issues, Kirsten begins to use alcohol to cope with the deterioration of her and Sandy’s marriage. Ultimately, the concern of her sons leads her to seek help and go to rehab.
Untimely Death• “Sudden death, such as a car accident, provides family members no opportunity to say farewell or resolve relationship issues with the individual” (287).• After the death of his girlfriend, Marissa, in a car accident, Ryan relies on the love of the Cohens to bring him out of a dark patch in his life.
Calibration• “The function of maintaining stability in a system is called calibration” (61).• Throughout all the bad things that happened through the series, the Cohen family manages to constantly recalibrate their relationships with one another, to maintain a strong and loving family relationship.
Works CitedGalvin, Kathleen M., and Bernard J. Brommel. Family Communication: Cohesion and Change. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1986. Print.
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