Texas Tech Expert Examines How Family Roles Shift During Conflict

New Research On Family Conflict Roles Shows How People React to a Fight

Written by Kelly Kleinsteuber

Dad may dictate the rules, but he might go out of his way to avoid a fight. This is a typical example of how family roles change during conflict, according to Patrick Hughes, professor and chair in the Department of Communications Studies at Texas Tech University.

Previous research on family conflict focused on biological relationships, not the communicative roles they take on during a fight. Hughes’ new research shows how structural roles become vague and contradict the communication roles family members assume in conflict.

Hughes, who recently published the co-authored book chapter "An Exploratory Investigation into Family Conflict Roles" in the new textbook Family Communication: Theory and Research, said people assume different roles during family conflict that do not correspond to their structural role in the biological family.

"Who is involved is one thing," Hughes said. "But how they are involved is another. We know how they are involved by the virtue of the communication they introduce."

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