Topic Valence and Ambiguity in Parent-Emerging Adult Child Postdivorce Discussions

Tara G. McManus, Jon F. Nussbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Communication privacy management theory maintains permeability rules manifest as communication strategies used during conversation. Although postdivorce families tend to privilege openness, this conclusion is based on recalled reports and single discussions about negatively valenced topics. To determine whether ambiguity functions as a manifestation of permeability rules and its effects on relational satisfaction and psychological well-being, 39 parent-emerging adult child dyads discussed one negatively valenced and one positively valenced postdivorce topic. Results indicated parents were ambiguous while discussing negatively and positively valenced topics, and children were perceptive of parents' ambiguity during the conversations. No differences were found between parents' use and children's perceptions of parents' ambiguity. Further, children's relational satisfaction and psychological well-being were affected by ambiguity in both discussions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-217
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication


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