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Communicator Style And Marital Adjustment

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Communicator Style and Marital Adjustment

Researching the Relationship Between Communicator Style and Marital Adjustment: A Literature Review

Sondra Lovelace

Researching the Relationship between Communicator Style and Martial Adjustment: A Literature Review

Marriage is a pervasive and relevant subject matter. By examining prior research, one may find the relationship between spouses is a focus of great interest and debate in modern society. Since this topic is so significant, many studies have scrutinized the communication influences related to obtaining a high degree of marital satisfaction. In fact, Watson (1983) notes that "of all the factors believed to contribute to marital adjustment, however, marital communication stands out as the process underlying and supporting most other, if not all marital processes and outcomes" (p.1-2). Given this finding, it is reasonable to infer that spouses' specific communicator styles have a significant effect on marital contentment and success. Past studies have supported this theory by recording that "some communicator styles were more apparent in relationships with reportedly higher levels of comparative happiness" (Honeycutt, J.M., Wilson, C. & Parker, C., 1982). There is little doubt that these previous scholarly studies have presented a worthy argument for the existence of a relationship between spouses' communicator styles and couples' subsequent marital adjustment. Therefore, a review of literature is invited to examine this subject matter by isolating variables in order to define theoretic expectations, reviewing past academic research relevant to the focus, as well as considering future research topics to be explored.

In order to fully examine the subject matter, one must consider the questions: What is the relationship between communicator style and marital adjustment? Within this problem statement lies key variables to be identified. The first is the variable of communicator style. Norton (1978) conceptualized communicator style as "the way one verbally and paraverbally interacts to signal how literal meaning should be taken, interpreted, filtered, or understood" (p. 99). This variable has been critiqued exhaustively in numerous communication studies and is not the chief variable of definitional criticism for the current study. The second variable presented in the problem statement is one of marital adjustment. The definitional components of this term may be investigated relevant to many fields of study. However, the current study will define and relate this term specifically in terms of communication. By evaluating the theoretic expectations concerning the variable of marital adjustment, one is able to appreciate the relevance of the term as it relates to the problem statement at hand.

As is the case for many other concepts in the social science field, there is no general consensus for a definition of marital adjustment. However, by examining prior studies isolating this term as a variable, one may obtain a certain degree of knowledge concerning the concept's theoretic expectations. Since almost all research on this topic assumes a basic understanding of the term, it becomes conceptually relevant to discuss specifically how martial adjustment relates to communication. Barnes (1993) explained that "marital adjustment or satisfaction is more accurately defined as the perception of basic regard or confirmation from one's partner related to communication factors such as effective listening, empathy, and congruence" (p. 5). This definition seems to emphasize the need for specific communication standards regarding the adjustment of marriage. Taken this into consideration, it is inferred that maladjusted couples would display a lack of effective communication components, or an inability to achieve a relationship where the well-adjusted communication components are present. In light of this theory, the variable of marital adjustment becomes closely linked with the field of communication. These inherent definitional communication components provide the framework for the current study to examine the relationship between communicator style and marital adjustment.

Simply identifying the theoretic expectations regarding the preceding research variables is inadequate to determine if a relationship exists between communicator style and marital adjustment. Therefore, a literature review is welcomed to further investigate this possibility. The current study allows for the isolation of each variable in context of the relevant information known as well as what remains to be known regarding each term.

To begin with, the variable of communicator style has been evaluated in numerous communication studies in order to conceptualize communication behaviors as they relate to other variables. In fact, Watson (1983) reported, "Studies related to communicator style have investigated style correlates of attraction, related communicator style to perceptual processes and outcomes, and assessed differences between male and female communicator style" (p. 31). By assessing multiple dimensions of individual communicator style, past research has made an argument for this variable to be an obvious influence on many other communication processes. It is this multidimensional approach which provides the opportunity to examine communication in the marital context from a broader perspective. This expansive point of view includes all eleven of the subscales included on Norton's Communicator Style Measure (CSM) which is described in detail later in the study. For now, it is important to note that based on reviewed research, this multifaceted measure of communicator style provides the most appropriate answer to the impact of communication in the marital relationship.

Although this measure may be considered the most suitable for the current study, it does not exist flawlessly. Since Norton's CSM is an assessment of perceived partner's communicator style, it could be argued that "if low CSM scorers do not accurately perceive another's communicator style, they may misperceive other relevant factors important in achieving effective communication in a relationship" (Honeycutt, J.M., Wilson, C. & Parker, C., 1982). Thus, since effective communication is positively related to marital adjustment, it would appear that spouses' accuracy of perceiving partners' communicator style is in need of further research and investigation.

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