Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Michael Bertoch


Michael Bertoch


Richley Crapo


William Dobson


Glendon Casto


Walter Borg


The purpose of this dissertation was ta determine the usefulness of the linguistic processes of Distortion, Deletion, Generalization, and Semantic Ill-Formedness as constructs which differentiate the verbal communication in families who express dissatisfaction with their current intrafamilial relationships from the verbal communication in families expressing satisfaction with their current relationships. These linguistic constructs provide an intermediate link between abstract theoretical assumptions and concrete findings which abound in the field of family interaction research. 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, consisting of 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 and a questionnaire eliciting information regarding their satisfaction with their intrafamilial relationships. The families we~e instructed to reach agreement on items of the Revealed Differences questionnaire which they had disagreed on and the discussion was tape recorded. The discussions were transcribed and 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. Similarly, 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.



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