Unit Four: Power and Conflict

Chapters 7 and 8

October 20 - November 2

October 20 - 21: Quiz over Unit Four

October 22 - 29 ((First posting by 10/22): Discussion Forum

The Case of the Too-present In-laws

Directions: From the following scenario, determine: 1) Sara and William's conflict styles; 2) the stage of family conflict; 3) the pattern of family conflict; and 4) the effect on the family. As always provide Evidence, separately from your Answers, with support from the case and/or your text. Then list the one best piece of advice you could give to Sara or William if they were friends of yours.

Sara and William Brown lived in an older neighborhood in downtown Detroit, Michigan. William worked on the assembly line in a steering gear plant that recently began rehiring employees after a series of layoffs. Sara stayed at home, caring for their four children; two-year-old Teddy, four-year-old Robby, and the twins, Laura and Melissa, both ten. Sara's parents recently moved back to Detroit after living for eleven years in Arizona. Although she and her mother had always been close, Sara found it difficult to adjust to the daily phone calls and surprise visits that she received from her parents. She disliked that her parents, now retired, seemed intent on spoiling their four grandchildren. To make things worse, William was clearly disturbed by what he perceived to be his in-laws' interference with his family life. He resented the gifts that the maternal grandparents showered upon his four children. He also feared that Sara was too closely tied to her mother and, because Sara's mother had vigorously opposed their marriage, that this would cause marital problems at some point.

Sara felt caught between her parents and her husband. Although she felt loyal to her mother and father, she recognized that she and William had to maintain a life separate from that of her parents. She found herself defending her parents' behavior to William and his attitudes to her parents. She and William frequently engaged in loud arguments that added to Sara's stress. Although she did not agree with her parents' actions, she felt disloyal whenever she perceived herself to be siding with William against them. Whenever Sara and William began a verbal battle, the younger children became disruptive and somewhat hyperactive. They would frequently run through the house yelling and screaming at each other. Sometimes the older son would throw toys at his younger brother. This behavior usually postponed the couple's argument, but it frequently resulted in a redirection of the anger and frustration felt by the parents toward their children which, in turn, made both William and Sara feel guilty.

Williams' dissatisfaction with the situation continued to grow for some time. He began working overtime to try to keep a little distance between himself and his problems at home and to make extra money for a camping vacation at a nearby lake. Between the long hours he kept and the tension at home, William frequently found himself worn out. The more tired he felt, the more he found himself resenting the fact that Sara could not straighten thing out with her parents and make life a little easier for him. At work, instead of concentrating on his job, he found himself wondering what was going on at home and worrying about the long term effects of living so close to Sara's parents. His blood pressure rose to 180/95 and he frequently complained of headaches.

*Excerpt from Yerby, J., Buerkel-Rothfuss, N. , and Bochner, A. (1990). Understanding Family Communication, 2nd edition. Scottsdale, AZ: Gorsuch Scarisbrick.

October 24:Family analysis webpage: add 1) analysis of one of your family member's (no need to use names) usual power bases (which resources (pp. 185) does he/she tend to use? which are more successful? and 2) your analysis of whether your family is more conversation or conformity oriented, why do you think this, is this orientation successful for your family at this point?

October 24 - 31: Post comments about family websites for your family

October 29: Final answers must be posted: Final answers should be posted in your family's discussion forum with the subject heading: FINAL ANSWER FOR "YOUR FAMILY NAME."

October 31: Final Revisions of web additions due.

October 30 - November 2: Debate "FINAL ANSWERS"; chance to refute, question, defend.




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