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Strategic topic avoidance: an investigation of topic avoidance frequency, strategies used, and relational correlates

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This research stresses the need to examine the relationship between topic avoidance and relational correlates (e.g., satisfaction and emotional closeness) from a message production theoretical perspective. Our approach—strategic topic avoidance—offers additional explanatory capabilities as the strategies with which interactants in close relationships avoid topics may be associated with perceptions of the relationship (after accounting for topic avoidance frequency). Moreover, relational correlates may also vary by the combination of overall topic avoidance frequency and certain topic avoidance strategies. The current research, therefore, assessed individuals' topic avoidance frequency levels and the frequency of using topic avoidance strategies in relation to satisfaction and closeness across three different relational types (i.e., significant others, mother–young-adult, and father–young-adult relationships). Results suggested that avoiding certain topics, such as current relational concerns, predicted levels of satisfaction and closeness across relationship types; however, cross-relational differences also emerged. Strategies employed to avoid topics accounted for additional variance in satisfaction and closeness for relationships with significant others and mothers but not fathers. Analyses also demonstrated that overall topic avoidance frequency interacted with topic avoidance strategy use.

Keywords: Closeness; Father; Goals; Message Production; Mother; Relationships; Satisfaction; Significant Other; Social Interaction; Strategies; Topic Avoidance

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2004


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