Dialectical Theory

Of all social dialectical theorists, there exists a single fundamental assumption. That is, the various relationships i.e. familial, romantic as well as friendship relationships happen to intertwined with multiple contradictions. Indeed, Baxter and Montgomery are of the opinion that social dialectics can only be taken as a constellation of theories rather that a single theory. In this text, I discuss the dialectical theory and identify the various unique tensions from the selected readings. I also discuss my personal dialectical tensions in the last parts of this text.

Dialectical Theory: An introduction

According to Montgomery & Baxter (1998), we are constantly reminded that there are constant changes in relationships through a variety of dialectical tensions which also remind us that constant attention is what makes relationships satisfying as well as successful. In any relationship, there are a number of core tensions which I shall briefly describe.To begin with, we have autonomy and connectedness which is essentially that need to establish not only ties but also connections with other individuals versus the desire to remain as a person who is relatively unique.

Secondly, we have favoritism and impartiality which is brought out the need to be rather exclusive versus the desire for impartial as well as fair treatment. Next, we have openness and closeness which essentially brings out the desire to be freely share with others versus the desire for privacy. Fourth comes Novelty and predictability. Here, we have the desire to enhance the predictability of the relationship versus the desire to rejuvenate it and make it new.At number five, we have instrumentality and affection.

Here, the focus is upon the desire for genuine affection versus the desire for various advantages (perceived) to motivate the relationship. Last but not least, we have equality and inequality. This brings out the desire to enhance equal considerations versus the desire to come up with a variety of superiority levels.It is important to note that according to the dialectical theory, communication does not offer a direct connection to the ideals of openness, certainty, as well as closeness in relationships (Turner 1986).


An analysis of the articles

When it comes to the first article “negotiation of dialectical contradictions by parents who have experienced the death of a child,” it is important to note that one of the most disheartening events a parent can encounter is the death of a child. This experience is indeed described as ‘life shattering’ by a majority of parents who have undergone such an experience. Apart from contradicting life’s natural order, the death of a child is viewed as loss of parenthood; that which gives parents their identity as parents.

As they continue to experience some sort of emotion as well as parental responsibility towards the deceased, parents who have lost a child also go through what is referred to as liminal identity. Here the identities of the bereaved parents may be significantly affected because of the liminal concept drawn into the picture. Here, such parents may experience two contradicting feelings i.e. the feelings of being a parent and not being one at the same time.Further, the experiences bereaved parents go through bring about contradictions (dialectical).

The dialectical contradictions in this case are two fold in that one; parents who have lost a child experience the absence of the child (physical) and at the same time or simultaneously the continued bond of an emotional kind with the dead son or daughter. Two, parents experience the need to share openly with others about their dead child while at the same time encountering constraints or reservations as far as discussing issues revolving around the deceased child is concerned. These ate the two main tensions which can be identified in this case. As per the findings of the article, bereaved parents find it difficult to share with others in regard to the death of their child.

However, there were also indications that being able to share with others most particularly in regard to the death of their child was of great significance to bereaved parents. Hence in this case, there was a trade off of sorts where parents came up with a ‘criteria’ which was meant to regulate their sharing with others most particularly in regard to the death of their child.When it comes to the second article, “‘You are my parent but you are not’: dialectical tensions in stepchildren’s perceptions about communication with the Nonresidential Parent,” it is important to note that step family relationships have often been marred with never-ending controversies.

Experts postulate that perhaps the complexities are brought about by the failure to think of stepfamilies beyond the boundaries of given household. In this article, the researchers apply the relational dialectics theory as the framework (heuristic). It is also important to note that previously, a number of research efforts have been directed towards examining life’s complexities by the application of relational dialectics

But on the other hand, we still have very limited research that has its basis on nonresidential parent-child relationships.It this particular study, the main focus was on the various contradictions faced by non residential parents and their children. In that regard, the relational dialectics theory was utilized with the sole purpose of charting the complexity (dialectical) of these relationships.


Personal dialectical tension

Based on my own personal experiences, I can effectively identify a number of dialectic tensions I have encountered over time. For instance, in some instances, I have been a group member tasked with the completion of assignments advanced by an instructor. In such circumstances, the task at hand contributes towards the final grade of each individual in a group. Based on the task at hand, there is often the desire to ensure that we progress as a team and ensure that one makes his or her contribution towards the completeness of the project but on the other hand, I often feel I ought to have highlighted my individual talents.

This is perhaps a classical case of autonomy and correctness as an example of a dialectic tension.Further, there are times I have engaged in animated chat with my instractors about a wide rage of topics including life relationships as well as education. When it comes to relationships (especially romantic), I often feel the desire to sustain the discussion by contributing towards the same while at the same time ensuring that I leave out fine details in regard to the same.


In conclusion, it is important to note that for many centuries, researchers have concerned themselves with the nature of interpersonal relationships. The dialectic theory postulates that various relationships experience contradictions as a result of the tensions they undergo. Hence in the final analysis, the ability to handle the resulting tensions is based on the response of the parties involved.


Montgomery, B.A. & Baxter, L. A. (1998). Dialectical approaches to studying personal relationships. Routledge

Turner, J. H. (1986). The Structure of Sociological Theory, 4th edition. Chicago: Dorsey Press