Communication ETDs

Publication Date



Social support can dramatically improve an individuals ability to confront and negotiate stressful life changes, and self-disclosure is one means through which individuals can create and maintain interpersonal relationships that can result in that much-needed social support (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985; Cohen & Wills, 1985; Cobb, 1976). However, during communication the relationship between the people interacting can influence what disclosures adhere to the communicators' expectations and what types of disclosures violate those expectations. Experiencing a communication expectation violation can impact (negatively or positively) individuals' perception of both their peer and the interaction itself (Burgoon, 1978). This study utilized Expectancy Violations Theory (EVT) to examine graduate students' expectations of reciprocal negative disclosures with their peers. Within the academic context it is important to better understand the disclosure expectancies that graduate students have of their peers. This is because self-disclosure can serve as a key means by which students develop interpersonal relationships and gain social support from one another as they navigate the challenges of graduate school and the organizational culture of their programs. No literature exists that utilizes expectancy violations theory to examine the impact that violating organizational cultural expectations regarding workplace disclosures regarding workload and mental health has upon graduate students' relationship with their peers. To fill this gap, this study recruited 181 graduate students to participate in an online experiment regarding disclosure expectancies. Analysis of the data indicated that positive valence violations of RND regarding mental health were not perceived as more unexpected than positive valence violations of workload RND; relational quality did not correlate with expectedness of negative valence violations; negative valence mental health violations correlated with lower rates of perceived equality in relational communication than neutral and positive valence violations; and positive and neutral valence violations positively correlated with higher levels of perceived similarity and trust than negative valence violations. This finding indicates that not only does engaging in RNDs serve as a means of validating graduate student experiences regarding workload and mental health, but it may help students develop relationships with their peers. Failing to engage in RNDs may negatively impact perceptions of equality.




disclosure, social support, graduate students, expectancy violations theory

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Bentley, Joshua

First Committee Member (Chair)

Ginossar, Tamar

Second Committee Member

Shields, Julie