Family Decision-making Processes
Decisions within families may be classified into several types: instrumental, affective, social, economic, and technical. Instrumental decisions are those which rest on functional issues such as providing money, shelter, and food for the family members (Epstein, Bishop, and Baldwin 1982). Affective decisions deal with choices related to feelings and emotions. Decisions such as whether to get married are affective. Social decisions (Noller and Fitzpatrick 1993) are those related to the values, roles, and goals of the family, such as decisions about whether one parent will stay at home while the children are preschool age. Economic decisions focus on choices about using and gathering family resources. Whether an eighteen-yearold child should get a job and contribute to the family income is an economic decision. Technical decisions relate to all the subdecisions that have to be made to carry out a main decision. For instance, if a family decides that one member will quit work and go to college, then a variety of technical decisions must be made to enact that decision (Noller and Fitzpatrick 1993).
Families use a variety of processes for actually reaching a decision. Many families have a habitual process that they use regularly whenever they need to make a decision. Other families vary in the way they approach decision making depending on the type of decision, their mood, and their stage of development. Researchers often discuss five possible processes that families use in reaching decisions. These include appeals to authority and status, rules, values, use of discussion and consensus, and de facto decisions.