Dr. Leslie A. Baxter (born 17 January 1949 in Portland, Oregon), United States is a scholar and teacher in communication studies, best known for her research on family and relational communication. Her work is focused on relationships: romantic, marital, and friendly. She is best known for her Relational Dialectics theory.
Baxter attended Madison High School and graduated in 1964.
Dr. Baxter stayed in Portland during her college years and attended Lewis & Clark College, where she studied communications. She received a bachelor's degree in 1971 and continued her studies with Speech-Communication at the University of Oregon, where she received her master's degree in 1972. In 1975, Baxter received a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in Speech-Communication. She is currently a professor at University of Iowa in Communication Studies.
Dr. Baxter started her work as a professor at the University of Montana and served her time there from 1975 to 1976. From 1976 to 1989, she was a faculty member in the Communications Department at Lewis & Clark College, where she had received her undergraduate degree. During the last two years at Lewis & Clark, she was the Associate Provost. Dr. Baxter then moved to California where, from 1989 to 1994, she taught in the Rhetoric and Communication Department as well as the Human Development Graduate Group at the University of California-Davis. In 1994, she moved to Iowa where she started her career as a Communication Studies professor at the University of Iowa. From 2000 to 2010, she was the F. Wendell Miller Professor, where she held the maximum period of professorship. In 2004, Dr. Baxter was the secondary appointment in the College of Public Health, Department of Community & Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa. In 2012, she became a Collegiate Fellow in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Baxter's work focuses on researching family and relational communication. Relational Dialectics Theory, which was created by Baxter and Barbara Montgomery, has been mentioned in books and scholarly journals and received awards. Relational Dialectics Theory is recognizing that all communication is the interplay of differences. Baxter has been awarded for her work in communication and dedication to teaching.
In one of her published articles, "Problematizing the Problem in Communication: A Dialogic Perspective," Baxter discusses the problems within dialogue. She compares her thoughts on dialogue to Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogism. She also compares her ideas with relational dialectics with an interview conducted by Em Griffin, an author of A First Look at Communication Theory. She believes that differences in relationships are what give it a wholeness, where as Bakhtin’s reference to dialogue isn’t used in "the sense of a happy, pleasant experience".
For Baxter’s study on family communication, Topic Expansiveness and Family Communication Patterns discovers individual’s binary decision in engaging disclosure or avoidance within communication. The study used 122 parents and their children to find communication patterns of avoidance, like sexual issues and topics of drinking/drugs, money, and educational progress. The topics were relative to friendships and everyday activities that would change the dialogue. The four topics of adolescent dating, family relationship rules, family relationship concerns, and traditions were the final grouped topics. Parental Rule Socialization for Preventive Health and Adolescent Rule Compliance looked into family rules rather than their communication pattern. Rules like nutrition, exercise, and sun protection in 164 families were examined. The outcome of this study showed that parents reported higher rule articulation than their children within the three topics. In 2014, another study was published about family communication. The study Discursive Constructions of the Meaning of "Family" in Online Narratives of Foster Adoptive Parents examined normativity of families, seeing if shared genetics established as a legitimate family. The study showed that it was the importance of dialogue of families that defined a "family", rather than how the family is constructed.
Leslie Baxter spent her career teaching and conducting research at universities around the Western part of the United States. One study to examine college student’s communication was to look at how 109 Midwestern university students used their health communication on a daily basis. The results were that impact of health communication varied by every topic, channel, relationship, and purpose whether that were to seek help for their health or have interpersonal communication (face-to-face, phone, and/or email).
Romantic relationships are another topic Dr. Baxter has researched. In one study done with William Wilmot, they used fourteen categories of tests in which lovers test the seriousness of their significant other’s commitment. They finalized results of women relying on secrets tests more often than men. For example, introducing their lover as "my boyfriend". They also concluded that men and women used different kinds of tests. A study done with Daena Goldsmith looked at communication in dating couples. They researched taboo subjects and what couples avoid talking about.
Achievements and awards
- Recipient of 23 "Top Three" competitively ranked paper awards at NCA and WSCA from 1976 to 2008
- 1990 – Honorable Mention for the Distinguished New Contribution award by the International Society for the Study of Personal Relationships
- 1995 – Berscheid-Hatfield Award; awarded every two years by the International Network for the Study of Personal Relationships and given to an individual that have notable contributions to the field of personal relationships
- Outstanding Article of the Year Award by the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender
- 1997 – Served as President of the Western States Communication Association
- Gerald R. Miller Book Award from National Communication Association for the book Relating: Dialogues and Dialectics by Barbara Montgomery and Leslie A. Baxter
- Elected to the office of President for Western States Communication Association
- 1998 – Elizabeth Andersch Award for professional excellence from Ohio University
- 1999 – Wayne N. Thompson Award for distinction in scholarship and academic success from Western Illinois University
- Ranked #11 in D. Perlman’s "Citation Analysis of Eminence among Personal Relationships Scholars in the 1990s"
- Recipient of College of Liberal Arts Honors Program Faculty Advisor Award from University of Iowa
- 2001 – Franklin Knower "Best Article" Award give by the Interpersonal Communication Interest Group of the NCA. This award was given for contribution to Human Communication Research
- WSCA Convention did a Presidential Panel in honor of Leslie Baxter
- 2002 – Inducted as Distinguished Member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars at the University of Iowa
- First recipient for the Legacy Theory Award given by the Communication Theory Interest Group, Central States Communication Association for relational dialectics
- 2004 – Phi Beta Kappa Outstanding Alumni Award for the Lewis & Clark College Chapter
- 2006 – Charles H. Woolbert Research Award from the National Communication Association for lasting scholarly contribution of the article Disciplining the Feminine
- 2007 – Entry in Who’s Who in America
- Bernard J. Brommel Award given by the National Communication Association for outstanding scholarship in family communication
- National Communication Association’s Interpersonal Communication Division did a showcase on Baxter’s work during "Understanding the World through the Use of Relationship Dialectics Theory: An Examination of Its Past, Present, and Future Applications"
- 2008 – National Communication Association Distinguished Scholar Award for record of scholarship, given by the National Communication Association
- First recipient for the WSCA Scholar Award for distinguished record of scholarship, given by the Western Communication Association
- 2009 – WSCA Convention did a spotlight panel on Leslie Baxter’s research
- Carroll Arnold Distinguished Lecturer award from NCA
- 2011 – Outstanding Book Award from the Family Communication Division of the National Communication Association for her book on Engaging Theories in Family Communication
- Gerald R. Miller Book Award for Voicing Relationships
- 2012 – Named Collegiate Fellow, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at University of Iowa for outstanding scholarship, teaching, and service to the university
- 2013 - Top Paper Award in the Family Communication Division of National Communication Association for The Dialogic Construction of ‘Adoption’ in Online Foster Adoption Narratives
- Showcased Remaking "family" communicatively at the NCA Family Communication Division Panel
- 2014 – Mark L. Knapp Award. This award is given to those who have scholarly contributions to relational processes and interactions
- Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
- Ancestry.com. U.S. Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
- A First Look at Communication Theory. (2014, January 29). Leslie Baxter on Relational Dialectics.
- Baxter, L. (2007). Problematizing the Problem in Communication: A Dialogic Perspective. Communication Monographs, 74(1), 118-124.
- Baxter, L. A., & Akkoor, C. (2011). Topic Expansiveness and Family Communication Patterns. Journal of Family Communication, 11(1), 1-20.
- Baxter, L., Egbert, N., & Ho, E. (2008). Everyday Health Communication Experiences of College Students. Journal of American College Health, 56(4), 427-436.
- Bylund, C. L., Baxter, L. A., Imes, R. S., & Wolf, B. (2010). Parental Rule Socialization for Preventive Health and Adolescent Rule Compliance. Family Relations, 59(1), 1-3.
- The Gazette. (1986, February 14). Just what is this thing called love?; Psychologists studying it closely say it's not the same for everyone.
- Long, G.J. (2010, September 8). In Sickness and in Health.
- Suter, E. A., Baxter, L. A., Seurer, L. M., & Thomas, L. J. (2014). Discursive Constructions of the Meaning of "Family" in Online Narratives of Foster Adoptive Parents. Taylor & Francis, 81(1), 59-78.
- Talan, J. (1986, February 11). Why Do Fools Fall In Love? For any number of wrong reasons, researchers say.
- University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of Communication