Book Reviewed: Pettigrew, J., & Badzinski, D. M. (2023). Family communication and the Christian faith: An Introduction and Exploration (Pasco, WA: Integratio Press). Amazon Associates Link
Reviewed By: Dawn Casas
Reviewer Affiliation: Charleston Southern University
Total Pages: 359
Review of: Pettigrew, J., & Badzinski, D. M. (2023). Family communication and the Christian faith. Integratio Press (359 pages)
“How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.
Their children will be successful everywhere;
an entire generation of godly people will be blessed” (Psalms 112:1-2, NLT).
Understanding God’s ways and passing these down to the next generation within a family is a seed of blessing, as noted in Psalms 112. Family Communication and the Christian Faith: An Introduction and Exploration by Jonathan Pettigrew and Diane M. Badzinski provides a basis for students, pastors, families, and counselors to understand where biblical wisdom and scholarly theory intersect, offering a path for applying these ideas and passing that seed on to the next generation. There are few family communication texts that accomplish this integration of Scripture with current research and theory, and Pettigrew and Badzinski’s text fills this space in the scholarship well. This text is timely, particularly as the structure, definition, and purpose of family have become unstable and uncertain in our society. The authors provide not only a more deeply rooted understanding of family communication through the lens of Scripture, but also an enhanced understanding of theology through the lens of family communication.
The design of Pettigrew and Badzinski’s text is easy to follow and pedagogically effective. It is logically structured in three sections, from overarching assumptions and perspectives to theoretical understandings of specific communication practices, to their application through the stages of family life. Each chapter begins with a Scripture passage that frames the content for that chapter, and then follows through by relating concepts and theories in the chapter to that biblical frame. Woven throughout the text are “Points to Ponder” and “Application Activities” to encourage discussion. These offer a springboard for students in and out of the classroom to apply the information presented to their own family relationships.
Part I includes four chapters that lay a foundation for understanding family communication Christianly. Chapter 1 presents the biblical assumptions undergirding the authors’ approach: God communicates, God designed family, the realities we face deviate from God’s original design, and communication serves as a bridge between the broken realities and God’s design (pp.3 – 8). The remaining chapters of Part I provide a definition of family, consider how this may look in non-traditional groupings, and discuss how the family structure impacts and is impacted by society. Finally, the authors examine the relationship between theory and theology, considering the biblical metanarrative, looking at theoretical paradigms and theories, and explaining how these align (or do not align) with Scripture.
In this regard, a similar text—The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home by Jack O. Balswick, Judith K. Balswick, and Thomas V. Frederick (2021)—serves as a point of comparison. While Balswick, Balswick, and Frederick wait until the final part of their book to discuss modern and postmodern ideas that influence current conceptions of family, Pettigrew and Badzinski go there in Part I, examining paradigms that influence scholarly and popular cultural conceptions of family from the start. Integrating such theological and paradigmatic assumptions early on gives readers a foundational understanding from which to interpret subsequent content. Although the authors do not respond to modernism and postmodernism directly, they address these worldviews indirectly through a discussion of the theoretical paradigms of naturalism (positivism), interpretivism, and critical theory (pp. 42 – 45). They address how research and theories are influenced by these paradigms and how Christians can learn from studies within all these paradigms. This scaffolding teaches the reader to have a judicious eye in reading any scholarly literature. Key theories examined here include systems, narrative, dialectical, and developmental theories. In sum, Part I provides the reader with a set of theological assumptions, foundational definitions, and theories that help to interpret the applications in the future sections.
Part II examines specific aspects of family relationships such as connecting, conflict management, forgiveness, everyday stressors, and daily functions of family life. Chapter five unpacks how families create connections. The authors discuss the roles of rituals, listening, relational maintenance behaviors, love languages and encouragement models. This is a treasure trove of theoretical and biblical concepts for readers, and one challenge in this section is the constraints of space, which evidently prevented the authors from including some of the “why” behind these concepts.
One notable example of integration with biblical ideas in Part II is when the authors relate listening to Proverbs 20:5 which says, “A plan in the heart of a person is like deep water, but a person of understanding draws it out” (NASB). Pettigrew and Badzinski develop this metaphor by encouraging readers to think about how to get water from a well. They then apply it to listening by noting “The proverb puts a premium on slow, patient, methodical, and consistent practices for connecting…. Often, in conversation, this takes form in questions” (p. 64). The authors explain some practical tools for listening well, including nonverbal communication, thoughtful responses and asking questions. In the section on family routines, Pettigrew and Badzinski helpfully discuss Paul Patton and Robert Woods Jr.’s recommendations for how to view technology use in the home (p. 140). Included is a treatment on the amount of time children spend on technology, questions to consider about use, and privacy concerns for children. Overall, the second section of the text is brimming with useful content that readers will likely refer to in the future and apply to their daily lives.
The third part focuses on the phases of family life, from coming together in marriage, through having and raising children, to passing on a family legacy. Like Balswick, Balswick, and Frederick (2021), the authors discuss theories of mate selection within a biblical framework and recognize marriage within a covenantal perspective. However, Pettigrew and Badzinski draw upon different theories, focusing on needs theories and Attachment Theory. Particularly notable within the context of a Christian perspective is a “Points to Ponder” section that dives into Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” and leads readers to examine the Christian response to this theory (p.153). The authors raise questions about the biblical command to consider the needs of others, citing several applicable Scriptures. This epitomizes faith integration as readers are invited to contemplate the role of humility in close relationships, a core concept both in Scripture and interpersonal communication scholarship.
Part III also includes various theories related to children and parenting, such as Attachment Theory and Family Communication Patterns (FCP) Theory. Attachment theory is expanded into the spiritual realm by having readers assess their own perspectives on God and how relationships with parents may have influenced those views in positive or negative ways. Also notable is the discussion of FCP Theory, in which the authors relate the types of communication patterns with research on relationship satisfaction and conflict styles. Unique to this text is its attention to family legacy, not only in the practical, life-transition elements, but also in the power of speaking blessing. For the latter, the authors facilitate concrete application by providing suggested Scriptural blessings to pray over family members.
Instructors can use this text effectively in a family communication class, expounding on some of the ideas presented. It may be beneficial to expand on listening skills suggested, including concepts such as barriers to listening, benefits of listening, the difference between hearing and listening and the “why” behind the importance of listening, as described in some interpersonal texts (e.g., Adler, Rosenfeld & Proctor, 2020). Likewise, due to the rising impact of technology and social media use, it may be valuable to discuss media effects and why this is an issue for families, such as key ideas on self-perception, quality of interpersonal interactions, nonverbal skills, and professional implications. These can encourage students to provide useful limits on technology in the home. Understanding the practical significance and implications of theories can help motivate students to utilize the skills explained.
Overall, Family Communication and the Christian Faith fills a gap in the literature at the intersection of family communication, sociology, psychology, theology, and Scripture. The text is full of key concepts at an introductory level and whets the appetite for beginning readers to dig deeper. Truly, gaining the insights presented in this text and applying them to a family’s patterns with wisdom will serve as a seed of blessing that will produce a harvest of healthy communication patterns for future generations.
Adler, R. B., Rosenfeld, L. B., & Proctor, R. F., II. (2020). Interplay: The process of interpersonal
communication (15th ed.). Oxford University Press.
Balswick, J. O., Balswick, J. K., & Frederick, T. V. (2021). The family: A Christian perspective on the contemporary home (5th ed.). Baker Academic.