Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Family Environment

First Advisor

Charles L. Cole


The purpose of this dissertation was to study power as defined in the family research literature and to incorporate concepts and theories from the family therapy literature in the analysis in light of a discrepancy between these fields. Power has been identified by family researchers as a multidimensional concept with three domains: (1) power bases, (2) power processes, and (3) power outcomes. The word, "power," has been used less by family therapists, who have used related systemic terms such as differentiation, boundaries, and hierarchies;Data resulted from a 1980 study of 58 "healthy families" modeled after the Timberlawn Healthy Family Project. Only husband's and wife's perceptions of self and spouse were used;A developmental sex role framework was used to test the effect of power bases on power processes; resource theory was used to test the effect of power bases on power outcomes. Operational definitions were: (1) power bases--resources (self-esteem, love (giving and receiving), education (self and spouse), and income (self and spouse)); (2) power processes--styles of influence (verbal and behavioral); and (3) power outcomes--effectiveness of influence. Contexts included disagreement (attempt to change) versus agreement (attempt to reinforce) and family life stage (two stages based on years married). Predictions of effects of resources were: verbal--positive; behavioral--negative; and effectiveness--positive;Findings showed resources more useful in explaining verbal style and not useful in explaining effectiveness. Following were significant findings. Self-esteem and love had a positive effect on verbal style and effectiveness (earlier stage). Both spouses' education had a negative effect on behavioral style when in agreement. Wife's education and income had a negative effect on verbal style and effectiveness when in disagreement. Wife's education and husband's income had a negative effect on verbal style when in agreement (earlier stage);Implications include recognition of the following: importance of tangible, intangible, and inter-relational resources with regard to gender and context, including family life stage; limitations of resource theory; need for a systemic or interactional theory in studying marital power; importance of integrating concepts and theories from both fields; and importance of a closer link between researchers and therapists.



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Delores Brick Dunagan



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259 pages