Academic journal article Communication Studies

The Relationships among Loneliness, Self/partner Constructive Maintenance Behavior, and Relational Satisfaction in Two Cultures

Academic journal article Communication Studies

The Relationships among Loneliness, Self/partner Constructive Maintenance Behavior, and Relational Satisfaction in Two Cultures

Article excerpt

Approximately 20% of adolescents in the United States suffer from loneliness (Roscoe & Skomski, 1989), and loneliness is a common and serious problem for many people (Segrin, 1998). The aversive consequences of loneliness range a variety of social and personal problems including suicide (Newman, 1971; Sermat, 1980), drug abuse and dropping out of college (Lamont, 1979), and depression (Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980). Feelings of loneliness also affect interpersonal communication patterns and relationship quality. Studies have found that lonely individuals display low involvement in conversation (Bell, 1985), low actual communicative competence (Spitzberg & Hurt, 1989), and low imaginary communicative competence (Honeycutt, Zagacki, & Edwards, 1990). Individuals can feel lonely whether or not they are involved in intimate relationships (Peplau & Perlman, 1982). Some people may feel lonely even in an intimate relationship, due to their dissatisfaction with the achieved level of intimacy as to the desired level of intimacy (Spitzberg & Canary, 1985), as well as due to their negative perceptions (Duck, Pond, & Leatham, 1994) and distrust of others (Rotenberg, 1994). Although research has consistently shown the inverse associations between loneliness and positive relational outcomes (e.g., satisfaction and intimacy), and some researchers (e.g., Canary & Stafford, 1992) imply that the use of positive communication strategies varies as a function of personality factors such as loneliness, little is known about the extent to which loneliness is linked to specific relational communication behaviors in close personal relationship contexts.

Research further shows that loneliness experience is prevalent in many different cultures (Brewin, Furnham, & Howes, 1989; Jones, Carpenter, & Quintana, 1985; Pearl, Klopf, & Ishii, 1990). However, people in different cultures appear to experience lonely feelings in varying degrees (Rokach, 1998) and attribute them to different causes. Rokach (1998) reported that South Asians rated personal inadequacies as a greater cause of loneliness, whereas North Americans rated unfulfilling intimate relationships as such. Previously, research has shown that individuals in different cultures engage in positive communication behavior at a varying degree, meaning individuals in the United States reported using relational maintenance strategies significantly more than did South Koreans (Yum & Canary, 1997). Given that most researchers define loneliness as a lack of satisfying personal relationships (Peplau & Perlman, 1982), probably, caused by a lack of communication skills (Jones & Moore, 1989), it appears necessary to investigate the extent to which lonely and non-lonely individuals respectively display competent communication behavior in a personal relationship and its implications on relational outcomes in different cultures.

CULTURE AND LONLINESS

As stated above, the phenomenon of loneliness varies across cultures. In most cases, feelings of loneliness are induced by a lack of desired amount or quality of personal relationships (Jylha & Jokela; 1990; Spitzberg & Canary, 1985). Researchers concur that culture may be a salient variable that affects feelings of loneliness (e.g., Jylha & Jokela, 1990; Rokach, 1998). In the West, loneliness reflects people's social or personal relationship with others or the community, and yet one should note that cultures vary in the ways people's relationships are formed and structured (Rokach, 1998). Rokach speculated that it is natural that these differences cause "cross-cultural variations in the ways people perceive, experience, and cope with loneliness" and obtained empirical support (Rokach, 1998, p. 76). "Unfulfilling intimate relationships" were the highest cause of loneliness for Americans, whereas "personal inadequacies" were rated as the highest for South Asians. West Indies rated "relocation/significant separations" as the highest cause of loneliness. …

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