Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Erin Sahlstein Parcell

Committee Members

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.

Included in

Communication Commons