Communication ETDs

Publication Date



The current study investigated cultural, familial, and individual differences in social support seeking processes between Japan and the United States by applying face negotiation theory (FNT). The application of FNT contributed to understanding social support seeking processes by utilizing such concepts as national cultures, and horizontal-vertical individualism and collectivism (I-C) as cultural variables, family communication patterns (FCP) as meso-cultural variables, self-construals as culturally influenced individual variables, and face concerns as situational and relational variables. Using the FNT framework, the current study focused on the following five aspects: (a) cross-cultural comparisons of the amount of social support seeking and coping styles, (b) relationships between national cultures and social support seeking styles, (c) relationships between vertical and horizontal I-C and social support seeking, (d) relationships among national cultures, FCP, and social support seeking, and (e) an overall model of face-negotiation processes. In total, nine hypotheses and seven research questions were posed. A questionnaire survey was administered to 252 Japanese university students and 262 U.S. American university students. Many hypotheses were supported in the following areas: a) cross-cultural differences in the amount of social support seeking were found, with the Japanese less likely to seek social support than U.S. Americans, b) FCP, including both conversation and conformity orientations, was a positive predictor of social support seeking, c) vertical collectivism was a positive predictor of the amount of social support seeking, d) the effects of national cultures were fully mediated by FCP with regard to social support seeking. However, hypotheses on the overall face-negotiation model were not supported because self-construals and face concerns had little impact on social support seeking. The current study did not make a clear explanation of the roles of self-construals and face concerns to social support seeking. Nonetheless, the current study was successful in explaining the multilayered cultural effects of national cultures and FCP on social support seeking processes. The results of the current study may directly contribute to understanding a social ecological model to explain and predict interpersonal behavior across cultures from macro- and meso-levels of culture. However, the potential for extending the FNT framework from conflict communication to social support seeking processes needs to be further explored. Because the present study revealed that Japanese participants tended to seek social support less than their U.S. American counterparts due to cultural, familial, and personal differences, more training and pedagogy may be concentrated in these areas. Both the Japanese and U.S. Americans may benefit from being able to reconsider and reflect on their communication processes by knowing different approaches to supportive communication. In doing so, they may gain a wider perspective and build better interpersonal communication skills.




Social support seeking, Cross-cultural communication, Japan, the United States, Face negotiation theory, Social ecological model, Intercultural communication

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Covarrubias, Patricia

First Committee Member (Chair)

Oetzel, John

Second Committee Member

Janice, Schuetz

Third Committee Member

Selig, James