Social Values and Self-Disclosure: A Comparison of Chinese Native, Chinese Resident (in U.S.) and North American Spouses

By Fitzpatrick, Jacki; Liang, Shu et al. | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Social Values and Self-Disclosure: A Comparison of Chinese Native, Chinese Resident (in U.S.) and North American Spouses


Fitzpatrick, Jacki, Liang, Shu, Du, Feng, Crawford, Duane, et al., Journal of Comparative Family Studies


INTRODUCTION

As Chinese families are becoming more prominent in the US population (Ferguson, 1995), there is an increasing need for research on Chinese and North American experiences of marriage. Previous cross-cultural research has focused on mate selection preferences and attitudes toward marriage in Eastern and Western cultures (Chia, et al., 1986; Goodwin and Tang, 1991). Yet, there has been relatively little emphasis upon the processes that occur in the context of ongoing relationships. The present study extends prior research by examining both cultural values and self-disclosure among Chinese and North American spouses. In addition, this study examines the experiences of Chinese resident spouses living in the United States. This group was included because their cultural experiences have been understudied and might have unique qualities that are not necessarily reflected in studies of Chinese native or American respondents (e.g., Tsai, et al., 2000).

According to Kashima, et al. (1995), research has indicated that cultural differences can be captured by the dimensions of individualism and collectivism. Collectivistic societies emphasize group cohesiveness. Pilgirm and Rueda-Riedle (2002) noted researchers presume that the group influences social actions in order to facilitate shared experiences and mutual support. Collectivism stresses group consciousness, harmony, emotional interdependence, obligation, and group solidarity (Gelfand, et al., 2000; Triandis, 1995). In contrast, individualistic societies emphasize personal autonomy. Researchers presume that there is a primacy placed on uniqueness of personhood, personal goals, and singular actions (Pilgrim and Rueda-Riedle, 2002). Such cultures stress self-consciousness, emotional independence,'and autonomy (Gelfand, et al., 2000; Triandis, 1995). It has been argued that North Americans are more individualistic and Chinese are more Collectivistic, but this presumption has received little attention in intimate relationships.

If these cultural differences exist, then they may be enacted in personal relationships. For example, Bell and Bell (2000) stated that the emotional orientations and motives for marriage differ in American and Japanese cultures; similar distinctions might exist between American and Chinese cultures. More specifically, cultural disparities might be evident in self-disclosure patterns between spouses. Self-disclosure refers to the verbal communication of personal information to others (Derlega, et al., 1993), and is emphasized in Western cultures. Indeed, Bradford, et al. (2002) stated that "self-disclosure is at the very heart of interpersonal communication and, as such, makes a critical contribution to relationship outcomes" (492). Research has shown North Americans are socialized to be open, direct, and assertive in their communications (Hocker and Wilmot, 1995). It is not surprising, then, that North Americans frequently utilize self-disclosure as a means to develop marital intimacy, reduce emotional distance, and promote marital satisfaction (Rosenfeld and Bowen, 1991). In contrast, Chinese people are socialized to be more restrained, more reserved in their interactions, and to frown upon verbal expression (Chen, 1995; Hocker and Wilmot, 1995). Therefore, self-disclosure may be less prominent in Chinese marriages.

These cultural contrasts are particularly relevant to Chinese spouses that are experiencing cultural transitions. More specifically, Chinese residents in the United States may have been raised in a more collectivistic culture, but may be influenced by their exposure to more individualistic values and behaviors in America (Tsai, et al., 2000). According to Feldman, et al. (1992), this repeated exposure may contribute to acculturation, which reflects an adoption of the dominant culture's values/behaviors and a shift from the culture of origin's values/ behaviors. Thus, Chinese residents may be at a cultural crossroad which is reflected in their marital relationships. …

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