Any communication behaviors rely on symbolic interaction.  In family communication, children learn their roles from interaction with their family members such as parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc.  For a child’s birthday party, the mother generally makes the cake for the birthday boy or girl.  The cake is a symbol in and of itself for a family function of celebration based on their values system.  Another example is a belt.  In a family that possess a great deal of abuse, a belt could be used as a whipping device to punish young children when they do something wrong.  In a normal family, a belt is used as a device to hold up your shorts or pants.  When you spend time around your family, they socialize you and teaches what symbols mean and how and when to use them.

Family research from a symbolic interactionist perspective can deal with how external events, such as natural disaster, and internal events, such as a death in the family, affect role definitions.  In the occurrence of a natural disaster, the children and spouse would look up to the father for protection and safety.  If there was a death in the family, children would look to their mother for comfort and support.  “The symbolic interactionist perspective emphasizes the processes of role-making, role definition, role negotiation, and role identity within the family” (Symbolic Interactionism, 2011).