Scholarly article on topic 'Communication Patterns of Malay Families in Terengganu, Malaysia'

Communication Patterns of Malay Families in Terengganu, Malaysia Academic research paper on "Sociology"

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{"family communication" / "family relationship" / "conversation orientation" / "conformity orientation" / "Malay family"}

Abstract of research paper on Sociology, author of scientific article — Che Hasniza Che Noh, Fatimah Yusooff, Mohd Safar Hasim

Abstract This study focuses on communication patterns of children with their parents. Two types of patterns are emphasized which are the conversation and conformity orientations of communication. Conversation orientation refers to the openness of parents when communicating with their children signifying a two-way relationship between parents and their children. While conformity orientation refers to a rigid form of communication where parental authority is emphasized. The two forms of communication are significant in family relationships. This study involved 1,012 respondents comprising 435 children (secondary school students), 300 mothers and 277 fathers of Malay families in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia. The Revised Family Communication Pattern by Ritchie and Fitzpatrick Instrument was used to measure the patterns of family communication. Results of the study showed the respondents utilized both forms of communications at a moderate level, and that communication could explain the level of relationship between family members.

Academic research paper on topic "Communication Patterns of Malay Families in Terengganu, Malaysia"

ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 102 (2013) 635 - 642

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

6th International Forum on Engineering Education (IFEE 2012)

Communication patterns of Malay families in Terengganu,


Che Hasniza Che Noha* Fatimah Yusooff & Mohd Safar Hasimc

aDepartment of Language and Communication, Universiti MalaysiaTerenganu, 21030 Terengganu. bSchool of Psychology and Human Development, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia cInstitute of West Asian Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia


This study focuses on communication patterns of children with their parents. Two types of patterns are emphasized which are the conversation and conformity orientations of communication. Conversation orientation refers to the openness of parents when communicating with their children signifying a two-way relationship between parents and their children. While conformity orientation refers to a rigid form of communication where parental authority is emphasized. The two forms of communication are significant in family relationships. This study involved 1,012 respondents comprising 435 children (secondary school students), 300 mothers and 277 fathers of Malay families in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia. The Revised Family Communication Pattern by Ritchie and Fitzpatrick Instrument was used to measure the patterns of family communication. Results of the study showed the respondents utilized both forms of communications at a moderate level, and that communication could explain the level of relationship between family members.

© 2013The Authors.Publishedby ElsevierLtd.

Selectionand/orpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityofProfessorDrMohd.Zaidi Omar, AssociateProfessorDr Ruhizan Mohammad Yasin, DrRoszilahHamid,Dr NorngainyMohd. Tawil,AssociateProfessorDrWan Kamal Mujani, Associate Professor Dr Effandi Zakaria.

Keywords: family communication; family relationship; conversation orientation; conformity orientation; Malay family;

1. Introduction

Family is an important social institution in society in which healthy and functional families will be able to contribute to the wellbeing of the community as a whole. However, with rapid globalization the challenge to the family becomes increasingly critical and demands parents to play a more effective role, especially in relation to

^Corresponding author. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Professor Dr Mohd. Zaidi Omar, Associate Professor Dr Ruhizan Mohammad Yasin, Dr Roszilah Hamid, Dr Norngainy Mohd. Tawil, Associate Professor Dr Wan Kamal Mujani, Associate Professor Dr Effandi Zakaria. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.781

their children. Today's social phenomenon shows that the problems that occur in adolescents in particular, are the result of failure of a well-functioning family institution. This problem is very worrying because it brings negative effects on psychological, physical, economic growth and individual development, families, communities and the country. Therefore, recognizing the importance of a good family relationship, various efforts have been and are being made to strengthen such relationship.

Communication is an element that is important in addressing the problems in the family towards forming a harmonious family. Family relationship from the perspective of communication is seen by the family systems theory [1] in which each member is an element in a system which interacts with each other to sustain balance in the system. Thus, each member is dependent on each other and in doing so influences each other. According to Bigner [1], family relationships between parents and children could be described as complex interactions occurring within the family and as factors that influence family decision-making process. In addition, the theory also explains how families respond to changes, not only to the family but also to external changes.

Communication as the basis for studying relationship in the family began in the 1960s and have continued ever since. The study of family communication involved two main approaches: i) focusing on the relationship of marriage, and ii) emphasising on parent-child relationship [2].

This study focuses on the second approach, i.e. parents and their children, and its significance in influencing many aspects of the family especially with regards to emotional, mental and social developments of the children. Positive and effective communications have been identified as the basis for proper functioning of a family. This is especially so when the children become adolescents and began to have their own identity and making their own decisions.

This study, therefore, specifically aims to identify the patterns of communication among Malay families in the state of Terengganu, namely the conversation and conformity orientations.

2. Review of Literature

Barnes and Olson [3] show that when communication between parents and teenagers is good, family relationship is closer, loving relationship exists, and this facilitate problem solving. According to them, communication is a process that facilitates the development of cohesion and reconciliation in the family. Previous studies support the importance of communication in the life of humans [4,5].

Patton and Giffin [4] emphasize the importance of quality interpersonal communication in influencing the development of self, psychological health and success in influencing the environment. According to them, when an individual can interact effectively, the person is capable of developing self-identity, increase appreciation of self and face realities of life. While, Noller and Callan [5] state positive communication is a factor that encourages better social relationships and coping skills among youth. Trees [6] found that non-verbal communication as shown by parents contribute to children's emotional support. While Bronstein [7] finds among families in Mexico, children whose parents are warm and supportive contribute to their children's expressive and assertive behavior; while children's of punishing and strict parents are associated with children who are passive and provocative.

These findings are further supported by Sheran [8] who found that the pattern of interaction between parents and children affect social competence of the children. In addition, how parents communicate with their children provide lasting implications to the emotional development of their children [9]. In managing crisis in a family, Ullrich [10] found that specific patterns of communication of parents determine whether it is easy or difficult to make adjustment with changes occurring in the family, especially when the children began entering the world of adolescents.

Barnes and Olson [3] find that families with good communication links between parents and teenagers will give satisfaction to all aspects quality of life. The study by Jackson et al. [11] in adolescents show effective family communication related to satisfaction with family and the lack of any conflict between parents and

children in particular when the child becomes youth. According to Noller and Bagi [12], family communication in the child being a teenager, is an important aspect that contributes to the whole family atmosphere. Fitzpatrick et al. [2] express similar opinion saying family communication has an impact on the child at an intermediate stage in their development. In terms of academic achievement, Ullrich and Kreppner [13] find that there is a correlation between the quality of family communication and academic achievement among adolescents. They found that children who get higher grades usually have parents who are easy to discuss and negotiate.

There are also gender differences in communication where Noller and Bagi [12] find that boys and girls tend to communicate more with mothers than fathers except on topics relating to politics. Female adolescents more frequently carried out self-disclosure with their significant others compared to boys, and mothers could accurately predict the response of their adolescent children compared to fathers. If effective communication has been identified to provide positive impact to the family, the study also shows that ineffective communication to cause adverse effects on the family.

Conger and Peterson [14] in a study of parents and their children find that family with problem showed existence of communication disorders which would cause adolescents to experience mental illness or serious psychological difficulty. Conflicts between adolescents and parents are normally associated with daily routine, and issues such as household tasks, personal hygiene, neatness and school works. Teenagers tend to make their own decisions and only depend on parents or friends in certain issues [15].

The gap that exists between teenagers and parents is because they do not often communicate with each other and this leads to conflict and particularly strained relationship when the parents valued less opinions of their children [5]. Importance of family communication among teenagers is also shown by Stewart [16]. Several other studies also show that there exist a relationship between ineffective communication between parents and adolescents with schizophrenia, aggressive behaviour, low academic achievement, problem of social skills, individual difficulties, and low esteem [17].

Comparative study by Masselam [18] in connection with parents' communication and family functioning in two schools categorized the students as successful students and students with problems. The study found that successful students come from families who are open and practiced positive communication. Study by Clark and Shields [19] also showed that effective communication between parents and teenagers are associated significantly with lack of delinquent behaviour among youth.

In conclusion, previous studies show that positive family communication have long-term positive impact on the development of emotional, social, and mental health of children.

2. Methodology

3.1 Data Collection

This study was carried among Malay families in Terengganu, a north-eastern state of Peninsular Malaysia involving the fathers, mothers and their children. The children were drawn from students in nine secondary schools who formed the first part of the respondents. The students' fathers and mothers were included in the survey as the second part of the respondents. Ideally, each of the student respondent should have both his or her father and mother as respondents. However, in certain families, only the father or mother and their off-springs were represented as not all the children's sampled have both their parents because some of them have died or divorced. This study used the survey method with self-administered questionnaires.

The selected students were gathered in classrooms and given a briefing on the research being carried out. They were asked to answer the questionnaires that were distributed. At the end of the sessions, the students were given two sets of questionnaires to be answered by their parents. The students were asked to brief their parents on the survey and to return the completed questionnaires to the researchers within a week. For the purpose of data analysis, each set of questionnaires have the same serial number to represent each family.

3.2 Sample

The sample comprised 435 children (secondary school students), 277 fathers and 300 mothers, giving a total 1,012 respondents. Of the student respondents, 157 were male (36.1%) and 278 (63.9%) females.

3.3 Survey Instrument

The three sets of questionnaires were designed for both parents and children to represent each family. Each questionnaire contains questions on the background of the respondents as well as information on family communication.

The study used the Revised Family Communication Pattern (RFCP) instrument [20]. The instrument contains 25 items, 15 items for conversation orientation and 10 items for conformity orientation. Items for conversation orientation are related to the openness of parents in discussions concerning various issues and which encourage their children in any discussion and decision making. Items on conformity orientation are related to limitations of children, particularly in terms of the discussion in the family which also focus on children's obedience to their parents.

The scale of measurement is from 1 for 'Never' to 5 for 'Very often'. Total scores are obtained by summing up all the scores from the 15 items for conversation orientation and 10 items for conformity orientation. Lowest scores for conversation orientation is 15 and highest score is 75. Low total scores showed that the respondents have a low conversation orientation while High total scores indicate high conversation orientation. For conformity orientation, the lowest score is 10 while the highest score is 50. Low total scores indicate low conformity orientation while high scores showed high conformity orientation.

The average scores obtained by both parents and children from conversation orientation and conformity orientation scores will indicate the type of family conformity, i.e. protective, pluralistic, consensual and laissez faire approach [20]. Most of the extensive research using the family communication instruments have categorized families as high or low on each dimension creating a four-fold typology of pluralistic, protective, consensual, and laissez-faire families. Pluralistic families score high on conversation orientation but low on conformity orientation. They promote open expression of opinions in a supportive atmosphere [2]. In contrast, protective families score low on conversation and high on conformity orientation stressing obedience "through overt compliance to parental authority" [2]. Protective families show little concern about conceptual matters; authorities outside the family easily influence children. Consensual families score high on both orientations. These families encourage children to express feelings and ideas, but not to disagree with parents. Finally, laissez-faire families, low on both dimensions, have been characterized by meagre parent-child interaction on limited topics. External social groups readily influence children from these families.

3. Results

4.1 Demographics

Majority of parents, aged between 41 to 50 years, are fathers 58.7% and 58.5% (mothers). Only a small percentage of the parents (1% of the mothers and 0.7% fathers) are young (around 30 years old); most likely they were married in their teens and the student respondents were their first child.

Majority of the parents have SPM-level education (secondary school certificate after 11 years of schooling). Nearly 66% of mothers are full-time house-wives. Among fathers, 52.3% earn less than RM1,000 a month (Exchange rate: US$1.00 = MR3.02) and nearly 40% are self-employed.

4.2 Family communication among parents and children

The level of family communication is divided into three categories: low, moderate and high based on the total scores obtained. Overall, results showed that majority of respondents have moderate level of conversation orientation, i.e. 66.6% among mothers, 70.7% among fathers, and 64.8% among children. Similarly, for the level of conformity orientation, the majority of respondents are also moderate which is 71.0% among mothers, 68.2% fathers and children 68.0%. At the low level score, children scored higher than the parents on both communication orientations which is 24.4% for conversation orientation and 15.4% for conformity orientation.

While for the high level score, the mother scored higher for the conversation orientation, and for conformity orientation, the father obtained higher score. The results are also consistent with the mean score of conversation orientation and conformity orientation for the three categories of respondents. It was found that the mean for mothers on the conversation orientation is highest at 49.62, followed by the fathers at 47.42, daughters at 45.24 and the sons at 39.41. For conformity orientation, it was found that the highest mean was the fathers at 32.57, followed by mothers at 32.15, daughters at 31.15, and sons at 29.57.

4.3 Comparison of the conversation orientation pattern based on gender of the children

The study showed that daughters had higher mean (45.24) compared to the mean of the sons (39.41). Mean difference of this conversation orientation was significant, t (433) = 5.99, p <.05. Based on these findings, child's gender, is found to play a significant role in the differentiation of the pattern of conversation orientation of the family communication.

Similarly, mean of daughters was also high (31.15) for the conformity orientation compared to boys (29.57). The difference in mean was significant, t (433) = 2.54, p <0.05. Based on this finding, gender of the children play a significant role in the differentiation of the conformity orientation pattern of family communication pattern. Among the parents, the study showed that the mean of mothers is higher ((49.62) than the mean of fathers' (47.42). The mean difference of the conversation orientation is significant, t (271) = 3.96, p <0.05.

Based on these findings, the mother or father plays a significant role in the differentiation of the pattern of conversation orientation of the family communication. Meanwhile, for family conformity orientation, mean of fathers are found to be higher (32.57) than the mean of the mothers (32.15). However, the difference in the mean is not significant, t (271) = 1:09, p>0.05. Based on these findings, it seemed that the mothers or fathers do not play a significant role in the differentiation of the pattern of conformity orientation.

By averaging the scores of conversation and conformity orientations of the mothers, fathers and their children the pattern of family communication can identified. Consensual family type was high at 43.6 %, followed by protective family 23.9%, laissez faire by 17.7% and the pluralistic family 14.8%.

5. Discussion

Majority of the parents in this study have a secondary school level of education (SPM and below) and earn a monthly income of RM1,000. Typically, these families have 4 to 6 children.

Family communication in this study is categorised into two orientations, namely conversation orientation and conformity orientation. The scores of the family communication are divided into three levels, namely low, moderate and high. Overall, majority of the respondents comes under moderate level for both categories of communication orientations. For conversation orientation, 70.7% of fathers, 66.6% of mothers and 64.8% of children come under the moderate level.

In the openness of communication, both parents scored higher than their children. This finding is in line with the study by Howard (1988) who found that mothers and fathers are perceived to be more open in the family communication, than their children. In this study, girls are found to score higher than boys in the conversation orientation, confirming finding by Montemayor (1982) in Frydenberg [21] that girls communicate more with their parents.

Communication is reflective of what happens in the family and also the extent of the relationship of the family. In families where the conversation orientation is practiced the communication between parents and children are more open. This form of communication, indicated there are discussions between the family members, decisions are made together where opinions of the whole family are taken into consideration. Children are encouraged to express their ideas and feelings. This form of communication become a daily routine and fun and in this way can strengthen family ties.

Narimah [22] found that families with higher education and a better source of income usually use higher conversation orientation pattern compared with educated parents and low income. This finding is also consistent with Mcleod and Chaffee [23] who found that family communication patterns are determined by social class of parents. Ritchie [24] describes this situation that the more educated the parents the less emphasis is given by parents on forcing their opinion on their children, and instead encourage open interaction with the family. From gender perspective, mothers's mean is higher at 49.62 compared to fathers's mean of 47.42 and children's mean of 43.13. This finding is in line with Barnes and Olson [3] which stated mothers showed better communication with children than fathers.

Noller and To [12] found that only the political topics are discussed with the fathers. Other studies found girls and boys communicate regularly with the mothers than the fathers because they see mothers more willing to share their problems, more open and understanding and more tolerant [9]. These studies concluded that parents provide a better picture of conversation orientation compared with children who feel their parents are less receptive to them. The study also support other studies conducted by previous researchers which found that the children prefer to interact with the mother than fathers in most cases.

For conformity orientation, 71.0% of mothers and 68.0% of fathers and 68.0% of children come under this moderate level. However, parents showed the highest mean of 32.57 compared with mothers' mean of 32.15 followed by fathers' mean of 31.15 and sons' mean of 29.57. This finding indicates assertiveness of fathers who expect their children to obey them. As head of the family, the father should play a more decisive role than the mother. According to Frydenberg [21], the father is usually less open to talk specifically about feelings. Ritchie and Fitzpatrick [20] are of the view that parents are more likely to be more of conformity orientation and at the same time less conversation orientation.

Therefore, teenagers are found to be more defensive of their father than their mothers [9]. This condition can also be explained that among the Malays, the fathers as head of the families are more strict than the mothers and discussions only took place when it comes to important matters such as financial-related matters and the needs of schooling.

Based on the scores of the mothers, fathers and children, this study found that they adopt both forms of communication patterns, i.e. conversation and conformity orientations of communication. The respondents are also categorized into four types of families, i.e. consensual, laissez faire, pluralistic and protective. In consensual type of family, the emphasis is on the two forms of communications, where children are encouraged to participate in the family by giving ideas without disrupting the hierarchical power and internal harmony of the family [5]. While in laissez faire family, communication between parents and children is not consistent and regular. Families are more open in pluralistic type where parents encourage their children to discuss an issue and challenge opinion of their parents. In a protective family, children are required to adhere to the parents and avoid an open conflict.

The findings of this study found that 44% of respondents can be categorized into consensual family which emphasise on both forms of communication orientations. This shows that the family is open and there are

frequent communication in the family and at the same time there are regulations that must be followed so as not to violate the norms and ethics of religion and culture. This situation reflects a positive communication environment which is practiced in the family. The protective family type is second with 24%. This type is characterized by parents who expect obedience of children. Where parents are very strict children, children would only discuss certain matters only. While, 18% of respondents are categorized as laissez faire family type, where communication in the family is lacking either because parents are not interested to share problems with their children or the children feel they are more comfortable to communicate with their peers rather than with their parents. The smallest category is pluralism family type with 15% of the respondents. Under this type parents give full freedom to their children to give their views and even allow open conflict, including with their parents.

6. Conclusions

This study explores the significance of family communication with regards to conversation and conformity orientations in the relationship between parents and their children. Communication is the connecting link between family members to solve problems, to discuss the various issues apart from strengthening ties between family members. Effective communication in the family reflects the intimacy that exists in family. Therefore, to increase the effectiveness of family relationships, attention should be given to increasing the effectiveness of family communication. Every individual wanting to enjoy quality family life must come up with reflection and "postmortem" of problems and difficulties encountered in the family. Therefore, the families will be more effective and thus able to build better society.


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