Date of Award
Master of Arts
Erin Sahlstein Parcell
Erin Ruppel, Lindsay Timmerman
Interpersonal Communication, Taboo Topics, Topic Avoidance
This study updates Baxter and Wilmot’s (1985) seminal study that generated a list of taboo topics in close relationships. Their original list included seven topic categories: (a) state of the relationship; (b) extra-relationship activity; (c) relationship norms; (d) prior relationships; (e) conflict-inducing topics; (f) negatively-valenced self-disclosure; and (g) other. Participants in the current study reported taboo topics for a friendship and a current (or past) romantic relationship. While the current results did find overlapping topic categories (extra-relationship activity, relationship norms, prior relationships, and other), the topic frequencies reported differed from the original and the topics expanded by nine: (a) sex, (b) hot button topics, (c) health, (d) personal issues, (e) individual past/present/future, (f) death/dying, (g) money/finances, and (h) previous state of the relationship, (i) other. Participants reported not explicitly designating these topics as taboo. Avoiding topics without explicit discussion suggests talking about if a topic is taboo is taboo in close relationships.
Johnsen, Lauren Jean, "Taboo Topics in Close Relationships: An Update" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 3282.