Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Rachel M. McLaren


Challenging experiences abound in everyday life. Research on relational transgressions predominately favors investigating the nature and outcomes of the experience and how the victim and transgressor respond following the experience. However, individuals are embedded within social networks that provide perceived and enacted support during relational challenges. Research on supportive communication documents the social support process within various contexts by highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of seeking and providing particular kinds of supportive messages. It is likely that social network members play an influential role in an individual's coping process following an experience of feeling wronged by something someone said or did. Literature on coping processes describes coping occurring on levels from individual to communal. If social network members feel wronged or hurt by what happened to the transgressed individual, then coping might occur at the network level. Little research to date has investigated the communicative coping processes within social networks following relational transgressions experiences. In the present study I argue that conversations about coping with relational transgressions influence transgressed individuals' and social network members' perceived stress, feelings about the transgression, forgiveness, and perceived ownership and responsibility of the transgression.

Fifty pairs of transgressed individuals and their social network members came to a communication research laboratory and completed a pre-interaction questionnaire, talked with each other about the transgression experience, and completed a post-interaction questionnaire. Participants and third-party observers evaluated the quantity and quality of supportive behaviors during the interaction. Results suggest that participants' perceptions of stress, negative emotions, and motivations for avoidance and revenge related to the transgression experience decreased from pre to post-interaction. Although many of my predictions about the associations between the amount of types of support and quality of support were not supported, results revealed several insightful findings. The amount of emotion support had a negative indirect effect on primary participants' perceptions of stress related to the transgression because of quality of support. I discuss the theoretical and research implication for this and other findings. The communicative coping processes within social networks following relational transgression experiences work in complex and layered ways to influence individual and relational well-being. The present study opens avenues for extending research on communicative coping and repair processes following challenging life experiences.


Communal Coping, Relational Transgressions, Social Networks, Social Support, Third-party observations


xiv, 173 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 133-148).


Copyright 2014 Joshua Ray Pederson

Included in

Communication Commons