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Family and Relational Rules

What Affects The Rules

There is little research on how people decide which type of rule to set, whereas there is a plethora of research on what affects the number of rules, the subject of the rule, adherence to the rules, and flexibility of the rules. Individual and family demographics can affect the frequency, focus, adherence, and flexibility of the rules.

Cultural norms can affect what rules families hold. Mario Mikulincer and his colleagues (1993) collected data from 350 Israeli-Jewish and 504 Israeli-Arab high school students. They found that Arab youths recounted more rules restricting their conduct compared with their Jewish counterparts. When looking at taboo topics among friends, Robin Goodwin and Iona Lee (1994) found that Chinese respondents had a greater level of taboo topics (thus more rules regarding what could not be discussed) than the British respondents.

Sex of the rule recipient can also affect the number of rules. In both the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Jewish cultures, adolescent girls reported more restrictions on dating and leaving home than boys (Mikulincer, Weller, and Florian 1993). The sex of the person making the rule can also influence the number of rules. The Chinese and British males in Goodwin and Lee's (1994) study reported a higher number of topics that they could not discuss than the females in the study.

Most rules also change over time. In her two-year study on African-American adolescents, Judith Smetana (2001) found African-American middle-class families were less restrictive at Time 1 (when the average age was 13.14 years) than at Time 2 (when the average age was 15.05 years).

In addition to impact of demographics on the number and focus of the rules, there is research on what impacts rule flexibility and perceptions of parental authority. Smetana (2001) found that income affects perceptions of parents' legitimate authority. African-American adolescents from upper income families rejected parents' legitimate authority to regulate personal issues more than those from middle-income families. Elliott A. Medrich and his colleagues (1982) and Amy Jordan (1990) both found that families with two working parents typically impose fewer rules on television viewing.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsFamily and Relational Rules - Rule Transmission, What Affects The Rules, How Rules Affect Behavior And Attitudes