Ed.D. Student Rebekah Johnson to Present at AAAL

| February 28, 2011

Name: Rebekah Johnson
Conference: AAAL (Chicago, IL; March 26-29)
Presentation title: Discursive Practices in Family Interaction: Strategies for Displaying Religious Values in Discussions between Adult Children and their Parents


The context of the family is one of the most important environments for individual development and for the learning of social and cultural practices. Children learn fundamental moral values and cultural concepts (e.g., religion) within the family. Children also learn how to display opinion and negotiate morality.

In the past decade, there has been a growing body of discourse analytic studies of family interaction, examining how socialization of morality, gender, political views, and general social practice is accomplished through family talk (e.g., Blum-Kulka, 1994; Gordon, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008; Kendall, 2008; Ochs & Taylor 1992, 2001; Paugh, 2005; Sterponi, 2003; Tannen, 2001, 2003, 2004).  There has, however, been a lack of studies of families comprised of older adults and their adult children.  This study examines the discourse among the four members of one American family and the competing religious values and stances displayed in family talk among adult children and their parents. The specific discursive practices used to display personal religious values have not been studied in a microanalytic analysis of family interaction.

Data was collected by digital video recordings of conversations among family members during holiday mealtimes when family members came together.  The recordings were transcribed and analyzed through the discourse analysis method of interactional sociolinguistics.

The analysis focuses on the discursive practices family members utilize to discuss and display religious values.  The results show interesting differences between the discursive practices used by the parents and the adult children.  Individual differences and strategies in negotiating shared values and critiquing those of others emerge in the data.

The exploration of family discourse and religious values adds to the existing literature showing the structure of discursive practices in the family context. Additionally, the microanalysis of the pragmatic functions employed by members of one family is indicative of larger cultural practices.