Full version Social Awkwardness And Inappropriate Self Disclosure Within Ones Family

Social Awkwardness And Inappropriate Self Disclosure Within Ones Family

This print version free essay Social Awkwardness And Inappropriate Self Disclosure Within Ones Family.

Category: Psychology

Autor: reviewessays 26 December 2010

Words: 1270 | Pages: 6

For many Americans, getting together with your family at Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to catch up with relatives you may not see often and relax. However, if you’ve ever wanted to run away from the Thanksgiving dinner table while covering your ears and screaming, you’re familiar with how social awkwardness can effect family situations. Whether it’s about your parent’s ‘personal’ lives or how your grandparents accidentally discovered a nude beach and joined in on the fun, some things just aren’t appropriate to be shared with the family. In fact, many youth commonly use the phrase “too much information” to convey their feeling of discomfort.

This act of disclosure or non-disclosure is also an important matter in the way adolescents deal with their parents. Teenagers and parents have always walked a fine line as to what topics can be discussed, not to mention that teens may lie or neglect to tell the entire truth when talking to their parents. More importantly, one of the only ways for parents to learn about what the child does is though such disclosure, since adolescents spend so much time out of the house and away from their family. A recent study (Darling, 2006) questioned consenting adolescents through various interviews and questionnaires about what they disclose and what they do not disclose to their parents. One finding of Darling’s study showed that adolescents disclose information that will cause praise, but not disclose things that could cause disagreement (2006). Another conclusion Darling (2006) came up with in the same study said that “The most common reason for disclosure was that adolescents were motivated by feelings of obligation…” (p. 676), showing that children from authoritative homes are more likely to disclose personal information.

One limitation of Darling’s study was that it only addressed the disclosure of the child in a family situation and did not focus on the amount of disclosure of the family as a whole. By studying an entire family’s pattern of disclosure, one may be able to learn more about family influences or family patterns of disclosure. In an attempt to expand upon Darlings study, researchers watched a popular television show, Arrested Development, to study interpersonal relationships between family members. This sitcom focuses on the dysfunctional Bluth family, whose eccentricities shine through in the category of social awkwardness. After watching one episode of Arrested Development, researchers hypothesized the Bluth family would exhibit social awkwardness in the sense of inappropriate self disclosure quite frequently because of the Bluth family’s outspoken and humorous approach when interacting with one another, yet always wanting to be the center of attention. This hypothesis was tested by watching a second episode of the series and observing each characters behavior, hopefully proving that inappropriate self disclosure is common in the family and important to the way they interact.



Since this was an observational study, participants were not recruited. There were 10 participants in this study, whose age ranged from 17 to 65 (M=38.1, SD=15.7). The majority were males (70%, n=7) and Caucasian (90%, n=9). It may also be relevant that most of the sample is related by blood (80%, n=7).


The selected behavior of inappropriate self disclosure was observed in two different episodes of the sitcom Arrested Development. The two episodes that were watched were entitled “Pilot” and Top Banana” (Glazer, et. al, 2003). In order to record the selected behavior, observers were given an observational coding sheet, which was divided into 90 different recording blocks. To start data collection the audio prompt of “Record” was given, in which the experimenters watched for the behavior in the characters for until the second audio command of “Record” came on. At this point, the observers would have 5 seconds to tally what characters exhibited the given behavior during the 10 second observation period. This process continued the entire length of the episode.


Multiple observers were all instructed to watch the “Pilot” episode of Arrested Development together in the same room and take light notes about the characters and their behavior during the episode. After the episode, a group of three unacquainted observers formed because they were sitting nearby each other. The group talked about common behaviors exhibited among the characters, noticing a trend of social awkwardness in the context of the family, especially in the sense of inappropriate self disclosure. It was decided that the inappropriate self disclosure would be operationally defined as the number of times a character bring in irrelevant, selfish information about themselves into a normal conversation.

During the episode of “Top Banana,” each observer watched for 10 seconds after instructed to “Observe” and then separately tallied the number of times the behavior occurred for each character in the 5 seconds after instructed to “Record.” There were approximately 80 observe-record blocks. After the episode, the number of times each character exhibited the behavior was added up and averaged among observers to control for variability. SPSS was used in the analysis of the data.


In this investigation, the number of times each character showed inappropriate self disclosure was recorded as a measure of the social awkwardness of the Bluth family. It was thought that based on their personality traits, the characters would exhibit such self disclosure in a second episode of the television series. Each character exhibited the behavior of inappropriate self disclosure rather frequently (M=2.07, SD=1.64) during the episode “Top Banana.”


It is clear that members of the Bluth family often bring up irrelevant, selfish information in normal social interactions quite often since the average number of times that each character exhibited inappropriate self disclosure was 2.07. However, the standard deviation was rather high in this study, showing that some characters exhibited the target behavior much more than 2.07 times while others exhibited it much less than 2.07 times. This may be partially due to the fact that not all characters were given an equal amount of time on screen, so it made sense that the characters with more lines in the script disclosed more personal information. This helps support the hypothesis that the behavior would be exhibited.

There were several limitations in this study. When studying the behavior of a species, it is important to study the animal in its natural setting. In this study, the dialogue was scripted out, so the behaviors observed are not a true representation of actually human behavior. It is also an issue that the experimenters knew what their hypothesis was, eliminating the double-blind method to control for observer bias.

This study was merely a pilot for future studies analyzing inappropriate disclosure in a family setting. It is hoped that this simple study could be followed up with a larger study analyzing if there is a correlation between the amount a child discloses personal information and the amount a parent discloses personal information. With this, one may able to draw conclusions on whether disclosure is a learned behavior or an innate trait, and to help identify the reasons behind social awkwardness via inappropriate self disclosure in both children and adults.


Darling, N., Cumsille, P., Caldwell, L. L., & Dowdy, B. (2006). Predictors of Adolescents’ Disclosure to Parents and Perceived Parental Knowledge: Between- and Within-Person Differences. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 34, 667-678.

Grazer, B., Howard, R., Nevins, D., & Hurwitz, M. (Executive Producers). (2003, November 2 and 9). Arrested Development [Television Broadcast]. Beverly Hills, CA: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Imagine Entertainment.