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family communication, social media, daughters, relational dialectics theory, sense-making


With the development of social media, parents must figure out how to guide their children’s use or even whether to allow it. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with 30 parents of daughters aged 12–18. Relational dialectics theory 2.0 was used to analyze how parents’ talk revealed their sense-making of their role in adolescent daughters’ social media use. Analysis revealed that parents voiced competing discourses pertaining to “bad” versus “good” parents and monitoring versus trusting daughters. Discourses that take place at the distal level compete with those at the proximal site of the utterance chain, challenging parents to engage in sense-making. Findings suggest that the advice of open communication between parent and adolescent addresses only the proximal level and not the distal level of societal expectations for monitoring and close involvement required of the “good parent.” To make sense of and manage competing discourses, parents appear to couple conversations with daughters with voicing discourses of daughter uniqueness as a way to favor trusting over monitoring and still maintain a “good” parent identity.

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This article was published Open Access thanks to a transformative agreement between Milner Library and Taylor & Francis.


This article was published in Communication Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/01463373.2023.2228868.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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