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Decision Making


Some families discuss their processes and have an overt, preferred mode for decision making. Other families simply fall into one or another process without thinking about it much. Additionally, many families may say they prefer to reach a decision through a discussion of all the members, yet the power relations in the family are such that discussion only confirms what the father, for example, wants as the decision. In this manner, the family may preserve an illusion of openness while actually using an authoritarian process for coming to a decision. Barbara J. Risman and Danette Johnson-Summerford (2001) talk about manifest power and latent power. Manifest power is present in decision making by authority because it involves enforcing one's will against others. Latent power, sometimes called unobtrusive power, exists when the "needs and wishes of the more powerful are anticipated and met" (p. 230). When families profess a democratic style of decision making, but really acquiesce to the will of an authority figure, latent power is being exercised. Families make countless decisions using power relations and these various processes: authority, rules, values, discussion, and de facto. Often the process engaged in by the family reveals more about them and affects them more profoundly than the outcome.


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Additional topics

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