Structuring the concept of relational communication

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Since the distinction was first drawn between content and relational aspects of communication, the notion of relational communication has evolved from a unitary focus on dominance to a multi-faceted concept that embraces as many as 12 subcomponents. With the aim of devising a theoretical structure to these many concepts, we advanced three proposals. First, we distinguished intensifier variables, such as involvement, and substantive variables, such as dominance and affiliation. Second, we argued that relational judgments are hierarchically organized such that dominance and affiliation subsume the more specific facets of relational communication identified in prior research. Third, we suggested that dominance and affiliation constitute competing frames for interpreting involvement cues during social interaction. A study was conducted in which participants (N = 805) responded to the Burgoon and Hale (1987) Relational Message Scale. First-order factor analysis was largely successful in reconfirming the structure of the subscales. Second-order factor analysis revealed the anticipated two-factor structure interpreted as dominance and affiliation. Although involvement was positively correlated with both dominance and affiliation, the magnitude of the association varied as a function of the salient relational frame.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-65
Number of pages17
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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