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Family and Relational Rules

Rule Transmission, What Affects The Rules, How Rules Affect Behavior And Attitudes

Think about your own family for a moment. Is it expected that you will eat dinner together as a family? Are there certain chores you must do? Are there topics you cannot talk about? These questions address specific rules your family may have. According to Virginia Satir (1996) every significant relationship develops rules. Most relationship rules can be identified by looking at the redundancies or repetitive behaviors of the relational partners (Yerby, Buerkel-Rothfuss, and Bochner 1990).

Rules are defined as a "followable prescription that indicates what behavior is obligated, preferred, and prohibited in certain contexts" (Shimanoff 1980, p. 57). Because rules enable the relationship members to predict the others' behaviors (Satir 1996) they are important for the survival and maintenance of one's relationship. This predictability leads to comfort and helps family members understand what topics are acceptable to discuss, how difficult topics are dealt with, and whom to include. Rules deal with the concept of what one should and/or should not do, and identify what types of actions define one as a member of the group (Satir 1996). Rules contribute to relational self-definition, development, and satisfaction (Satir 1996).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationships