Communication Studies, Department of
The Experience and Expression of Emotion Within Stepsibling Relationships: Politeness of Expression and Stepfamily Functioning
Date of this Version
While scholars agree there are emotional challenges associated with the divorce and remarriage process, little is known about how stepsiblings interact and manage the experience and expression of emotion within their stepfamily. The current investigation examined the frequency of experience, intensity, and expression of positive, strong negative, and weak negative emotion within stepsibling relationships over time. Using Politeness Theory as a framework, the study also investigated if an association existed between stepsiblings’ use of politeness strategies during the expression of emotion and stepsiblings’ perception of the quality of their relationship and their perception of the entire stepfamily. Participants were 187 stepsiblings who completed a self-report questionnaire consisting of both Likert-type items and open-ended questions. One-way repeated-measures ANOVAS were conducted with results indicating stepsiblings’ experience and expression of emotion were a function of the stage of their relationship. In other words, stepsiblings experience and express more negative emotion and less positive emotion, during the early stages of the relationship. Upon completion of content analysis of the open-ended portion of the survey, results indicated stepsiblings did use politeness strategies during the expression of positive and negative emotion; however, using a Welch’s ANOVA and a two-way contingency table no association was found between stepsiblings’ use of politeness strategies and their perception of the quality of their relationship and their perception of the entire stepfamily. The researcher was able to provide a stepsibling emotional profile that shows stepsiblings are experiencing and expressing emotion differently than in most interpersonal relationships. Although no association was found between politeness and stepsiblings’ perception of their relationship and their perception of the stepfamily, the development of a politeness strategy coding framework provides a useful tool for understanding what kind of politeness strategies stepsiblings use during emotional expression to mitigate threats to face. Future researchers can use both the emotion profile and coding framework for continued exploration of the emotional complexities involved in a variety of stepfamily relationships.
A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Communication Studies, Under the Supervision of Professors Dawn O. Braithwaite and Jordan E. Soliz
Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2010
Copyright 2010 Emily Lamb Normand