Term of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Rebecca Ryan

Committee Member 1

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 2

Karen Naufel


The role of communication between older adults and their adult children has been researched in the context of end-of-life care decision making (Fowler & Fisher, 2009; Fowler, Fisher, & Pitts, 2013; Scott & Caughlin, 2014), yet there are several healthcare concerns that arise prior to the need for this discussion. One such concern is the need for an assistive device. Politeness theory (Brown & Levinson, 1987) offers a framework from which adult children can approach their parent about a need for an assistive device in a way that is non-imposing and respects their parent’s abilities and autonomy, thereby exercising respect for face. The current study explored how politeness theory can be applied within the context of conversations about assistive devices between older adults and their adult children. Participants were asked to read one of four scripts of a conversation between an older adult and her adult child in which varying levels of respect for face were expressed. Respect for both negative and positive face was associated with significantly higher willingness to consider acquiring an assistive device relative to threatening both negative and positive face. Additionally, evaluation of relational support was found to partially mediate this relationship, while evaluation of emotional support did not serve as a significant mediator. The clinical implications of using negative and positive politeness strategies in conversations with older adults about assistive device needs will be discussed, as well as future directions for research on communication with older adults.

Research Data and Supplementary Material