Faculty Publications

A Radical Interactionist Perspective on Family Conflicts and Mothers With Substance Use Problems

Document Type

Book Chapter


complex dominative encounters, family conflict, family order, intervention, mothers with substance use problems, negotiated order, patriarchy, Substance use problems

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Symbolic Interaction and Inequality



First Page


Last Page



This study is a radical interactionist analysis of family conflict. Drawing on both a negotiated order perspective and Athen’s theory of complex dominative encounters, this study analyzes the role that domination plays in conflicts among intimates. As the family engages in repeated conflicts over roles, the family also engages in negotiations over the family order, what role each party should play, interpretations of past events, and plans for the future. These conflicts take place against a backdrop of patriarchy that asymmetrically distributes power in the family to determine the family order. The data from this study come from a content analysis of mothers with substance use problems as depicted in the reality television show Intervention. The conflicts in these families reveal that these families develop a grinding family order in which families engaged in repeated conflict but also continued to operate as and identify as a family. These conflicts are shaped by and reinforce patriarchal expectations that mothers are central to family operation. The intervention at the end of each episode offered an opportunity for the family to engage in a concerted campaign to try to force the mother into treatment and reestablish the family order.


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version