Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Christina Yoshimura

Commitee Members

Betsy Bach, Celia Winkler


dialectical tension, relational transgression, social network


University of Montana


This study examined how individuals negotiate the revelation and concealment of information following an act of infidelity within the social network. Research has shown that individuals experience a tension when deciding to reveal and/or conceal information regarding a relational transgression (Baxter, 1994, Baxter & Braithwaite, 2007). Drawing on dialectical tensions (Baxter, 1990), relational transgressions (Roloff & Cloven, 1994), and support networks (Cutrona and Suhr, 1992; Klein & Milardo, 2000), this project posed a number of research questions. Interviews were conducted with 22 participants regarding their communication following the discovery of an act of infidelity. Participants were asked to discuss who they did or did not tell about the infidelity, why they did or did not tell those individuals, and how they told them about the infidelity. Data from these interviews revealed participants view individuals who are sympathetic, trustworthy, and calm as supportive, and individuals who blame or pass judgment as critical. Participants also reported that revealing information to gain support, primarily informational and emotional support, was the most common motive for revealing, while concealing information to avoid evaluation was the most common reason for concealing. Individuals who were revealed to were considered both supportive and unsupportive when they provided advice to the participant. However, when network members failed to provide support to a participant, or tried to minimize the situation, they were seen as unsupportive. Participants experienced a number of tensions when deciding to reveal or conceal, including a desire to conceal the information but an expectation to reveal it due to the nature of the relationship. Participants used a few strategies to negotiate these tensions, including cyclic alternation, segmentation, and selection. These findings may have theoretical implications for dialectical tension research, particularly in the area of praxis patterns. Furthermore, they may be important in helping network members with future communication with individuals seeking support.



© Copyright 2008 Melissa A. Maier