Publication Date

2012-05-04

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2012-05-03

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Public Relations (Communication)

Date of Defense

2012-04-13

First Committee Member

Don W. Stacks

Second Committee Member

Thomas Steinfatt

Third Committee Member

Michel Dupagne

Abstract

With the acceleration of globalization, the world is filled with intense interaction between and among cultures. Whenever there is communication among people with different cultural backgrounds, disagreements, arguments and interpersonal conflicts may occur. This study is designed to investigate the influence of the cultural values and personality traits, especially individualism-collectivism and independent-interdependent self-construal, on people’s preferences of conflict management styles within the context of romantic relationships among Chinese and American students. Results from the questionnaire survey conducted in China and the United States separately revealed that there were transitions for the cultural values and personality traits in the Chinese and American societies. In this study, Americans were equally individualistic and collectivistic, and Chinese were more independent than interdependent. In addition, both the cultural and individual factors significantly influenced individuals’ choices of conflict management styles. High individualistic participants used more dominating and integrating styles, and high collectivistic participants used more obliging and third-party help styles. Students with a high level of independent self-construal used more dominating, integrating, emotional expression, and compromising styles. High interdependent respondents used more obliging and third-party help styles. No significant differences were found on the preference for the neglect style between the high/low individualism and the high/low independent self-construal groups. Similarly, there were no significant differences on the preference for the styles of avoiding and compromising between the high/low collectivism and high/low interdependent self-construal groups. These findings may suggest that in addition to cultural and individual factors, the situational and relational context also have an influence on people’s choices of conflict management styles. According to the rankings of conflict management style preferences for both nations, within the context of romantic relationships, young people preferred the styles which work quickly and well (i.e., compromising, integrating) rather than passive and aggressive styles that may hurt each other and ruin the relationship (i.e., avoiding and neglect).

Keywords

Conflict Management Styles; Individualism-Collectivism; Self-Construal; Romantic Relationship; American and Chinese Students

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