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Family Coalitions: A New Approach and Method

Phillip Bonacich, Oscar Grusky and Mark Peyrot
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 48, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), pp. 42-50
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3033780
Page Count: 9
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Family Coalitions: A New Approach and Method
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Abstract

This study formulates and tests a theory of family coalitions based on the hypothesis that coalitions form to maintain the existing status system. A new measure of coalitions based on family arguments is developed. Forty-eight four-person families of middle or upper-middle socioeconomic status, each with two parents and two children, were studied (younger children age 8-12 and older children age 12-16). Sex was balanced, with half the older children and half the younger children being male. Three- to four-hour interviews were conducted in the home using a variety of interviewing and observational techniques. Based on analysis of independent reports by all family members on patterns of support in arguments between family members, the coalition theories of Caplow and Gamson (munimum resource theory) each receive little support. Status maintenance theory, created to describe coalitional behavior in legitimate power hierarchies, is explicated and twelve specific hypotheses are derived. The data provide moderate support for the presupposition that family coalitions function to maintain the existing status order, especially parental superiority, and that family members of higher power and ranking are more conservative in their patterns of support than are those of lower power and ranking.

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