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Decision Making

Authority And Status

This approach allows family decisions to occur as a result of the will of the person in the family with the most status and/or authority. For example, in some traditional families, decision making may be vested in the father. The other members of the family are thus guided by what he says is right. If a family is discussing where they should go for a family summer vacation, for instance, and the father decides that a camping trip is the best decision, the rest of the family concurs because of his authority. This method of decision making works for a family as long as all the members agree about who has the most status and authority. If the family members do not agree that the father has the authority to make decisions, they may engage in serious conflict rather than allowing the father to make a decision for them.

Further, the authority approach may be more complex than the previous discussion implies. Many families may have divided family decisionmaking domains. In so doing, they designate certain types of decisions as the province of one member and other types that belong to other family members. For example, many households divide the labor and then delegate authority based on who is in charge of a particular area. If a husband is in charge of maintaining the family finances, he may have authority over major buying decisions. However, he may have no authority over issues concerning the children; for instance, the decision about bedtimes might be out of his jurisdiction. In this process, everyone in the family might have authority over some decision-making concerns.

Some families grant authority and status to members based on expertise. Thus, if an adolescent knows a great deal about computers and the Internet or about automobiles, the adolescent may be the one who decides about major expenditures such as what type of computer to buy for the family, what Internet provider to use, or which car to purchase.

Finally, the complexity involved in understanding decision making by authority is revealed in examining the communication process involved in making decisions. As Kay Palan and Robert Wilkes (1997) observe, the interactions between adolescents and parents often influence the decision outcome even though a parent may seem to make the final decision. Palan and Wilkes found that teenagers used a wide variety of strategies that allowed them to influence decisions in their families.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesDecision Making - Family Decision-making Processes, Authority And Status, Rules, Values, Discussion And Consensus