Communication Studies, Department of


First Advisor

Jordan Soliz

Date of this Version



Phillips, K. E. (2017). Communication and family identity: Toward a conceptual model of family identity and development of the family identity inventory (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.


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 Professor Jordan Soliz. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Kaitlin Elizabeth Phillips


Families serve as a primary socializing agent in the lives of individuals (Soliz & Rittenour, 2012), and the first social identity individuals have in their lives. Given the complexity and importance of identity—and family identity specifically, the goal of this study is to identify the various dimensions of family identity that scholars and practitioners should account for in their work. Through a two-study exploratory sequential mixed-method design I investigate what constructs comprise a conceptual model of family identity, and I develop a corresponding inventory of Family Identity. Through this process, I will also assess the relationships among these communicative processes, values, and structural attributes along with associations with personal and relational outcomes in the family. In Study One I investigate what characteristics participants identify as unique to their family and compare those themes to existing literature. These themes are then used as the foundation for the conceptual model of family identity. In Study Two, I use the data from Study One and existing scales to create a set of items to measure each of the constructs included in the conceptual model. In addition, I also test a set of propositions about the relationship between communication processes and well-being outcomes, as well as the moderating role of compositional structures, relational ideology, family identification, and life stressors. The findings from Study One resulted in a set of 10 family characteristics and a set of six structural factors. These results in combination with extant literature provide a framework for studying family identity. The first set of results from Study Two involves the psychometric properties of the items and the final set of items which includes 11 communication processes, five relational ideology dimensions, five compositional structures, family identification, and life stressors. Overall, the results demonstrate a relationship between the communication processes and the individual and relational well-being outcomes. The results also underscore the importance of investigating the role of compositional factors as many of the associations varied as a function of race/ethnicity. Implications and pragmatic uses of the inventory are discussed as they pertain to researchers and practitioners.

Advisor: Jordan Soliz