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Cultural contracts

Cultural contracts

Theory for metaphorically explaining the attitudinal and social predispositions that affects how people relate to others within and without one's own culture

Cultural contracts is a phrase that was introduced as part of a theory developed in 1999 by Dr. Ronald L. Jackson and published in Communication Quarterly. The theory attempts to metaphorically explain the attitudinal and social predispositions that individuals have when relating to others within and without their own culture.


Jackson's cultural contracts theory builds on prior work by Stella Ting-Toomey in her book Communicating Across Borders as well as earlier work from 1986 in which Ting-Toomey established an Identity Validation Model (IVM) and Identity Negotiation Theory (INT) that analyzes how humans behave based on sociocultural group membership as well as personal identity issues in order to develop intergroup-interpersonal relationships.

Assumptions, Propositions, and Implications

Cultural contracts theory includes 11 core theoretical assumptions about the nature of human communication and culture. A couple of the key assumptions are:

  • Cultural contracts are necessary for the sake of preserving, protecting, and defining the self, hence everyone has at least one.
  • Cultural contracts can be either temporary or enduring

Jackson then goes on to make 7 propositions about culture contracts. The first 3 are based on the idea that individuals who strongly value their own culture are less likely to have a desire to assimilate or adapt to other cultures. The remaining 4 outline the types of cultural contracts that exist under various circumstances and the various consequences of breaching those contracts.

Ultimately, cultural contracts theory implicates that their is an interdisciplinary paradigm through which complex issues of identity and cultural interactions can be viewed without ignoring the differences between individuals and groups.


Further Resources


Cultural Contracts Theory: Toward an Understanding of Identity Negotiation

Ronald L. Jackson



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