Linguistic Surface Structure in Family Interaction
The purpose of this dissertation was to determine the usefulness of the linguistic processes of Distortion, Deletion, Generalization, and Semantic Ill-Formedness as constructs which differentiate the verbal communication of families who express dissatisfaction with their current intrafamilial relationships from families expressing satisfaction with their current relationships. Specifically, it was hypothesized that dissatisfied families would use these linguistic structures to a greater extent in their interaction than would satisfied families.
Thirty-one family triads (father, mother, and child) were obtained by asking families randomly selected from the local high school student directory to participate. The families were given a Revealed Differences questionnaire which they subsequently discussed together and a questionnaire regarding their satisfaction with their intrafamilial relationships. The discussions were recorded and transcribed. Each of 150 Surface Structures (a complete thought, usually a grammatical sentence) per family was scored for 11 subcategories of Distortion, Deletion, Generalization, and Semantic Ill-Formedness. Interrater reliabilities ranged from .86 to .98.
A mean was computed for the questionnaire pertaining to satisfaction with family relationships. Six families who scored at least one half standard deviation below the mean comprised the "dissatisfied" family group, and six families who scored at least one half standard deviation above the mean comprised the "satisfied" family group.
It was found that the dissatisfied families used significantly more Deletion (p
The linguistic process of Deletion is theorized to result in impoverishing the speaker's model of the world and the behavioral choices available to the speaker. Similarily, the listener(s) who must respond to the impoverished model is limited in his response and behavioral options. Since all members of the dissatisfied families used this form of language, they perpetuate the impoverishing model of the world and the limitations on their behavior.
It was concluded that, while not establishing an etiologic link between the use of Deletion and family dissatisfaction, Deletion is part of the current verbal interaction of families who express dissatisfaction. Further research involving families in which a member is symptomatic is warranted based on the findings of this study. Language may provide at least one form of explanation regarding the process by which families maintain homeostasis in the face of symptom development. The use of linguistic concepts shows promise as an intermediate link in family interaction theory as well as a form of intervention available to therapists.