Uncertainty and the Avoidance of the State of One's Family in Stepfamilies, Postdivorce Single-Parent Families, and First-Marriage Families


All correspondence regarding this study should be addressed to Tamara D. Golish, Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802-5201; email: tdg3@psu.edu.


The current study tested the applicability of uncertainty management theory (URT; Berger & Calabrese, 1975) to information-regulation efforts in families with comparatively different uncertainty levels. Differences in uncertainty and avoidance for parents within the various family types are also discussed. In general, the findings lend further support for URT (e.g., Brashers, 2001) which suggests that in certain situations, such as that of postdivorce family life, individuals may prefer to maintain their uncertainty through avoidance. Contrary to what URT suggests, the association between uncertainty about one's family relationships and the avoidance of the state of one's family was positive and linear for adolescents and young adults in stepfamilies and postdivorce, single-parent families. For first-marriage families, however, this association was curvilinear in nature. Unexpectedly, closeness with one's parents or stepparents did not moderate this association for any of the family types. Nevertheless, satisfaction with one's parents was a moderator for children in first-marriage families. The degree of uncertainty in stepfamilies was also a function of the length of time in the stepfamily, but avoidance was not.