Communication Studies, Department of


First Advisor

Jody Koenig Kellas

Date of this Version

Spring 4-23-2020

Document Type



Morgan, T.M. (2020). Conceptualizing perceived parental communicated acceptance during parent-child religious difference. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln]. ProQuest.


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 Jody Koenig Kellas. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2020

Copyright 2020 Toni M. Morgan


Significant religious difference in the family has become increasingly prevalent in recent years (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2008; Pew Research Center, 2015). While religious difference is challenging for families to negotiate, the manner in which they communicate about it seems to be helpful in promoting positive outcomes (e.g., Colaner, Soliz, & Nelson, 2014; Hughes & Dickson, 2005). The purpose of this study was to conceptualize parental communicated (non)acceptance in the context of significant parent-child religious difference. To that end, I conducted interviews with 44 adults who identified a significant religious difference with their parent. The interviews also included a visual drawing task in which I asked participants to draw what it would look like if their parent communicated that they accepted them completely. I analyzed the interviews using Tracy’s (2013) iterative analysis and analyzed the drawings using Willer’s (2012) visual metaphor analysis.

The results suggested that communicated (non)acceptance occurred along a continuum containing four unique ranges. Communicated nonacceptance was comprised of parent centering, lack of communicated perspective-taking, passive aggressive behavior, and disconfirming salient identities. Ambivalence included three characteristics: conversation, avoidance, and reluctant acceptance. Communicated acceptance was comprised of creating a stable climate, communicated perspective-taking, recognizing autonomy, and confirming salient identities. Finally, idealized communicated acceptance included honoring the disclosure, parent de-centering, accommodative communication, direct verbal affirmation, and idealized communicated perspective-taking.

Participant drawings indicated three additional characteristics of communicated acceptance through the usage of three compositional elements. First, participants depicted communicated acceptance as being a connecting force that brought parents and children together. Second, participants drew communicated acceptance as being conveyed both monologically (one way message from parent to child) and dialogically (a collaboratively constructed process that both parent and child were active participants in). Third, participants visualized communicated acceptance as being an act of love.

To conclude, I discuss a number of important implications based on these findings. Implications include considerations for the study of communicated acceptance, for family communication scholars in general, for the study of significant religious difference, for translational research opportunities, and finally for real-world practice in parent-child relationship.

Advisor: Jody Koenig Kellas