Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Melanie Booth-Butterfield.


Divorce affects nearly 24,000 adults (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2008) and one million children yearly (Amato, 2000), often with negative consequences for those who are involved (Amato, 2000; Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001). Unlike previous research which focused on predictors of divorce, this dissertation (2 studies) focused on the communicative processes that occur when divorce is initiated and in turning points which comprise the interactions in post-divorce relationships. In study one, participants (N = 69) reported on the conversation where the decision to divorce was made, the face threats and facework which were communicated during that conversation, and the individual and relational outcomes associated with that conversation. Results indicate that the divorce conversation is indeed face threatening, that face threats play an integral role in the emotions experienced, and the participants' affect and attachment to the former spouse in the post-divorce relationship. In study two, participants (N = 165) reported on post-divorce turning points that they perceived as either positive or negative, the face threats and facework in that turning point, and individual and relational outcomes. Results indicate that negative turning points were perceived as most face threatening, while positive turning points were perceived to have higher levels of facework practiced. Further, the face threats and facework which emerged in the post-divorce turning points continued to influence emotions and the post-divorce relationship. However, the face threats and facework in turning points differed from the conversation where the divorce decision was made in that face threats and facework contributed to the individuals' levels of stress and well-being. Considered together, facework appears to be salient communicative strategy with the potential to alleviate some of the negative consequences associated with divorce and post-divorce interactions.