Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Living Life in the Direction of What You Signal

Hi folks.  I’ve been over-busy and not had an entry for a bit and wanted to get something new up here and wanted to get something posted.  So, here’s something I was reflecting on today.  I was talking with a colleague earlier and thinking about some ideas from what has been called consistency theory as it relates to commitment in romantic relationships.  I looked up something I wrote long ago in my dissertation based on the work of Kiesler and Rosenblatt.  It seems to fit in with the whole stream of recent thoughts about signals and commitment.  For example, see the Lolo and Tebow entry further below. Anyway, I was enjoying reminiscing about this line of thought that a younger version of me wrote long ago. Thought I’d just share it for those of you who are grooving on the signal thoughts.   

From:  Stanley, S. M. (1986).  Commitment and the maintenance and enhancement of relationships.  Doctoral dissertation.  University of Denver. 

Based upon numerous studies of commitment to attitudes about social issues (e.g., air pollution, the legal voting age, birth control for teenagers), Kiesler presents a view of commitment based on the need of individuals to maintain consistency between thought and action. He describes commitment as a "pledging or binding of the individual to behavioral acts" (p. 17). Having performed previous behaviors, individuals seek to reduce inconsistencies in their lives by bringing present attitudes and behavior in line with past behavior. Attitudes, being more pliable than past behavior, are likely to be changed so that they are consistent with that behavior. Past behavior can constrain one to a specific line of attitude or action that is consistent with that behavior. According to Kiesler, commitment will be strengthened by increasing one or more of the following: the explicitness of the previous acts, the importance of these acts for the individual, and the perceived degree of volition involved in performing the acts.

Rosenblatt (1977) discusses consistency theory, and applies this approach to a discussion of commitment in relationships. Rosenblatt makes a number of predictions. For example, he suggests that early in marriages, marital stability and commitment will be positively associated with ceremonial effort and publicity. Under such circumstances, the couple is accountable to many observers, leading them to infer that they really must have been sincere to have taken their vows in front of so many people. By similar reasoning, the couple who invests much in their wedding and relationship (in terms of time, effort, or money) has a great deal of behavior favoring maintenance of the commitment. There is a press (i.e., constraint) to bring attitudes in line with these committing behaviors, especially if the previous behaviors are perceived to have been voluntarily undertaken. Rosenblatt (1977) does not report any research, but suggests numerous projects for studying commitment within the context of consistency theory.

There are a lot of times in life where it’s a pretty cool idea to be aiming at what you signaled that you expected of yourself.  

Kiesler, C. (1971). The psychology of commitment. New-York: Academic Press.

Rosenblatt, P.C. (1977).  Needed research on commitment in marriage.  In G. Levinger and Raush (Eds.), Close relationships: Perspectives on the meaning of intimacy.  Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Profoundly Balanced Piece on Income and Family Disparities

There is a lot of talk these days about the great income divide in American life. And it is great and it’s growing larger all the time.  I don’t really want to write that much about I there because I want to encourage you to a new article by Jason DeParle in the New York Times this weekend. 

DeParle has a rich history of writing poignantly and deeply about poverty.  I cited another piece by him in a recent post focused on children born out of wedlock. In this new piece, Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do’, DeParle hits the nail full on.  Most discussions about income inequality focus on, well, income. Most people agree that there are growing disparities, and that these are related to a range of issues about jobs, education, opportunities, and taxes. 

But what is rarely, directly addressed in one place by one person writing deftly is the bi-directional association between income disparity and family structure disparity. They are profoundly linked—not in every aspect but, for millions of people in America, in very obvious and powerful ways. DeParle paints this picture deftly. 

Disparities in opportunities regarding jobs and education affect the formation and stability of families. But patterns of family formation and stability also dramatically affect income, education, and jobs.  It would be so refreshing if, in the policy world, we might all be able to talk about both directions being simultaneously worthy of solutions. There are not simple answers in any of this but it’s good to see someone embrace the fullness of a really complex problem.    


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fatherlessness and Vulnerability: Observations on Sandusky's Crimes

Many things go together. Ice cream and apple pie. Peanut butter and jelly.  Bacon and eggs.

Here’s another. The growing trends in unmarried childbirth and family disintegration go hand-in-hand with fatherlessness. As my recent posts on Isabel Sawhill’s op-ed highlight, the trends are alarming no matter where you are coming from in how you see it.

If you want the stats, you can go to the National Fatherhood Initiative’s webpage.  There is a lot of great information there.

I was thinking about this related to the story of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State.  He’s the long-time assistant in the football program there who started a foundation to work with young males—and who just got convicted for sexually assaulting, abusing, and taking advantage of scores of teenage boys.  That’s all horrible.

One really sad part of this all jumped out at me from several of the news accounts. It’s about the young men that he preyed upon.  He went after vulnerable young men who already were disadvantaged; who did not have a caring, responsible, involved father or father-figure in their lives.

In a story in the Daily Beast, one reads:

Theirs was a three-year-long relationship, the young man told the court, encouraged by his mother as a way for him to have a male figure in his life. Staring at the floor with his one good eye, the witness said that physical, sexually-charged contact with Sandusky started almost immediately. 

The Daily Beast story noted of another victim:

Like most of the other accusers, the 25-year-old sergeant in the Army National Guard who took the stand with a close-cropped military haircut had no father in his life. When Sandusky showed interest by taking him to football games and family functions, he told the jury, “It was awesome. I loved it. He was like a father to me.” . . . With his head hanging and in a whispered tone he said, “I was enjoying the other things I was getting too much. I loved him.”

A story in the New York Times noted this fact:

A jury in Centre County Court convicted Sandusky, 68, of sexually assaulting 10 boys, all of them children from disadvantaged homes whom Sandusky, using his access to the university’s vaunted football program, had befriended and then repeatedly violated.

These stories made me profoundly sad for these young men and their obvious desires to connect with an older, trustworthy male. Older and male they got; trustworthy, not at all, and this doubtless added to the pain in their lives.  And these young men were the ones who could find the strength to come forward and testify in court. There are so many others touched by these dynamics even if never touched by Sandusky.

As I noted in my post some time back about the perfect storm, I do not see how these kinds of vulnerabilities cannot be accelerating throughout American society.  We’re going to need multiple strategies on many levels to even begin to cope with this new reality.  The dynamics are not new, but the percentage of those affected by them has to be skyrocketing.