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Communicatively managing multiple identities through facework: Talking with family members about romantic relationship problems

M. Chad McBride, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of the present study was to examine how individuals communicate about relationship problems with their social networks, in this case family members, both before and after reconciliation. Using face as a theoretical framework, this study examines how persons communicatively construct their own identity and face needs, and manage the identity of their romantic partners, family members, and romantic relationship. The research question guiding this study was: How do persons communicatively manage social identities and face needs of self, partner, family, and relationship when talking to family about romantic relationship problems, both before and after reconciliation? In-depth interviews were conducted with 26 participants (20 females, 6 males) resulting in 468 single-spaced pages of data. These data were analyzed from a qualitative interpretive paradigm, using a thematic analysis. Results centered around how participants communicatively managed face needs through their choice of recipient, specifically their choice to reveal, their choice to conceal, and interaction when feeling compelled to reveal. Participants also managed face through managing the message by either editing message content or telling through others. Participants performed both active and passive corrective facework behaviors when interacting with family members after reconciling with their romantic partner. These findings shed light on how individuals manage a variety of face needs and social identities within a social network when talking about relationship problems with family. Additionally, the present study adds to the knowledge concerning face theory by highlighting the distinction between preventive and corrective facework and the multiple facets of face theory that are at play in social networks and in ongoing, personal relationships. The importance of the present study is the intersection of communication, identity, and facework in the interactions of individuals and members of their social network. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Speech Communication|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

McBride, M. Chad, "Communicatively managing multiple identities through facework: Talking with family members about romantic relationship problems" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3116593.