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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Graduate Studies

First Advisor

Jon Schamber

First Committee Member

Linda L. Nolan

Second Committee Member

Randall J. Koper


Couples engaged to be married represent a unique stage of relational development. How they communicate and interact as they move toward a joint identity in the process of bonding was the focus of this analysis. The project represents a merging of three communication research areas: relational analysis, conversational analysis and relational development. Following a review of the relevant literature, the transcribed conversations of engaged couples in spontaneous dyadic conversation were examined. Six couples made up the sample. All participants completed the Spanier Dyadic Adjustment Scale, as well as a self-report instrument which focused on their communication behavior as a couple and demographic information. In addition, each couple recorded a 30-90 minute sample of their conversation. Research questions pertained to conversation topics, egalitarianism of the decision-making process, strategies for conflict management, and couples' self-perceptions of their decision-making and their relationship in general. With regard to conversation topics, engaged couples were found to be future-oriented and working toward consensus on a variety of significant issues. The most frequent topics of conversation were money/finances, jobs/careers, future housing plans, wedding arrangements, future lifetime goals and plans (including "talk" of children). Formulations as a conversational structure were found to help generate consensus. Couples all demonstrated elements of egalitarianism, but only one of the six couples was perceived as high egalitarian. Although there was evidence of power struggles in some of the relationships, all the couples' relationships were described as symmetrical as no individual was found to be dominant over her/his partner. Examples of both cooperative and coercive conflict management strategies were observed in the couples' conversation. A significant gender difference was found in the number of questions asked by males and females, with 75% of all observed questions being asked by the female. Self-perception of the relationship and a couple's agreeing on their perception of their relationship were seen as major factors in overall dyadic adjustment. The findings offer insight on the nature of the bonding process, egalitarian decision-making behaviors, effective communication and functional conflict management techniques.



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