Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Renee Edwards


Relationship dissolution is a complex process that involves more than the act of termination. The process affects and is affected by an individual's communication with members of the social network. The attributions made by the individual to account for the dissolution constitute an attempt at failure management. This study was undertaken to determine how the strategies used to manage the failure event of divorce vary according to social network groups, gender, and expectation of approval. One hundred eleven divorced individuals completed questionnaires soliciting recollection of accounts made to family, friends, and acquaintances regarding their divorce. Findings include (1) excuses were used more often than other types of accounts (this supports earlier research in accounting), (2) excuses were used slightly more often with family, justifications substantially more often with friends, and silence and interactive accounts substantially more often with acquaintances, (3) there were no gender differences in type of account used or in the number of accounts used, (4) males selected males with whom to interact, and females selected females, (5) females initiated the divorce (as reported by both sexes), (6) families and friends were offered higher numbers of accounts than acquaintances. Content analysis revealed five types of excuses: abuse, unfaithfulness, refusal to change or get help, personality flaws and abrupt termination by other. T-tests revealed that females predominantly used the first three types and males predominantly used the last two. This study has examined reports of the actual accounts communicated to members of different social networks regarding divorce and has revealed differences with respect to these social networks. It has begun the task of developing a typology of interpersonal relationship failure management strategies and has established a connection between type of communication strategy selected and target audience.