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Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Psychology

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Paula Pietromonaco

Second Advisor

Jiyoung Park

Subject Categories

Social Psychology

Abstract

The current research examined the role of culture in shaping two interpersonal processes that occur within romantic relationships – i.e., (a) how individuals communicate emotional messages with their romantic partner and (b) how they help each other regulate emotions. I addressed these two processes by focusing on national culture, comparing behaviors between European American and Chinese partners in romantic relationships. Chapter I (Studies 1-4) investigated the extent to which European Americans and Chinese prefer direct vs. indirect communication styles with their romantic partners. Studies 1 and 2 found that Chinese were more indirect (vs. direct) than European Americans when they communicated emotional messages with their romantic partner. Study 2 further showed that influence goals motivated European Americans to use direct communication more whereas adjustment goals motivated Chinese to use indirect communication more. Study 3 tested independent (vs. interdependent) self-construal as an underlying mechanism for the pursuit of direct communication among European Americans by showing that independent European Americans preferred direct communication more than their interdependent counterparts. Next, Study 4 demonstrated that both European Americans and Chinese anticipated greater relationship satisfaction when their partner used a culturally preferred communication style (i.e., direct communication for European Americans and indirect communication for Chinese). Lastly, interdependent (vs. independent) self-construal mediated the effect of culture on indirect communication and its subsequent effect on relationship satisfaction. Chapter II (Study 5-7) examined cultural differences in the extent to which people help their romantic partner regulate emotions hedonically – i.e., maximize positive emotions and minimize negative emotions. Study 5a and 5b showed that as compared to Asians, European Americans helped their romantic partner engage in hedonic emotion regulation more in response to positive events. Study 6 extended this finding to negative emotions and further identified dialectical beliefs about emotions as a mediating mechanism in explaining the cultural difference in hedonic regulation of partner’s emotions. Study 7 demonstrated that European Americans enjoyed individual and relationship benefits when their partner helped them regulate positive and negative emotions hedonically whereas these benefits were significantly reduced or absent for Chinese. These findings highlight the importance of considering sociocultural context in examining the implications of communication and emotion regulation processes for romantic relationship functioning.

Available for download on Saturday, September 01, 2018

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