Co-rumination, Adjustment, Relationships & Emotions in Chinese & American College Students (CARE-CAYA) - A Cross-Cultural Look at Co-rumination, Friendship, Relational Concerns and Social/Emotional Adjustment

Project Description:

     Across different cultures, friends and social support networks are an important part of life (Takahashi, Ohara, Antonucci & Akiyama, 2002; Sarason & Sarason, 2009).  Self-disclosure has been identified as an important factor in establishing an intimate relationship and is viewed as a positive force that protects against loneliness and emotional maladjustment (Radmacher & Azmitia, 2006).  Additionally, research has indicated that self-disclosure, within the context of a close friendship, enhances perceived social support (Barr, Kahn & Schneider, 2008; Cohen, 2004; Stiles, 1980).  Although the need is universal, culture shapes the nature of close relationships in important ways. Cultural differences have been found in levels of self-disclosure, social support seeking and the buffering effects that social support can have during times of stress (Chen, 1995; Kim, Sherman, Ko, & Taylor, 2006).   While a wealth of past research focuses on the positive role of self-disclosure in friendships and social support in protecting against emotional distress, most of our knowledge is limited to investigations of Western samples.    

     Recently, attention has been focused on social processes that might involve adjustment trade-offs, questioning whether social support seeking might have costs as well as benefits.  Co-rumination is a social process characterized by excessive discussion of problems with a friend, including mutual encouragement of problem-focused talk, rehashing details of problems and dwelling on negative feelings about the problem (Rose, 2002).  This construct, is similar to rumination, a solitary, cognitive process which has been associated with anxiety and depression, but is social in nature and, like self-disclosure, may enhance feelings of closeness and support within friendships.  In fact, past research has shown that while co-rumination is associated with positive friendship quality, it is also related to depression and anxiety. These studies (including our own) show clear gender differences in co-rumination and suggest that this construct partially explains gender differences in levels of anxiety and depression (with girls showing higher levels) and predicts increased depression and anxiety over time for girls, but not for boys.

      Apart from our own cross-cultural work exploring co-rumination in Ecuadorian students this construct has not been investigated in non-U.S. samples.  Taylor and colleagues (2004; 2008) have investigated social processes which are theoretically related to co-rumination, namely the act of seeking out support during times of stress.  They have sought to understand why Asians engage less frequently in support seeking behaviors. They have found that Asians were significantly more likely to endorse relationship norms reflecting both relational concerns (i.e., seeking support would disrupt group harmony; sharing problems would make the problem worse; sharing problems would elicit criticism; discussing difficulties would cause one to lose face) as well as independence concerns (i.e., seeking support from others runs counter to the notion that one has responsibility to solve one’s own problems).   However, only relational concerns were found to explain cultural differences in the seeking support as a means of coping with problems.   Whether cross-cultural differences in co-rumination will exist and whether relational concerns will explain this cultural differences will be investigated in our study of Hong Kong/Chinese and U.S. students.

      Schug and others (2010) have recently argued that cultural differences in self-disclosure may reflect strategies adapted to particular social contexts that may differ in the their relational mobility or the degree to which individuals have ample opportunity to dissolve social connections and forge new relationships.  Their research suggests that social contexts that are higher in relational mobility (in which relationships can be terminated and initiated easily) promote stronger incentives for self-disclosure as a means of building intimacy and trust.  Whether relational mobility is similarly related to co-rumination as a relationship management strategy will be investigated in a sample of Hong Kong and U.S. college students.  Examining gender differences as another social context that may vary in relational mobility will prove interesting.   Finally, the degree to which relational concerns and relational mobility are related and predict unique variance in accounting for cultural differences in co-rumination will be examined.

Key Aims/Questions:

1)  Explore the cross-cultural construct validity of the Co-rumination Questionnaire

•    Both co-rumination and self disclosure are associated with positive friendship quality, but only co-rumination is associated with negative adjustment.

•    Both co-rumination and rumination are associated with negative emotional outcomes, but only co-rumination is associated with positive friendship quality.

2)  Explore the degree to which relationships among co-rumination, gender, friendship, and adjustment vary depending on cultural context.

       Among both U.S. and Hong Kong students:

•    Will women tend to co-ruminate more than men?  Do gender differences vary depending on culture?

•    Will co-rumination be associated with adjustment trade-offs (positive friendship, but higher levels of depression and anxiety)?  Do these associations vary by culture?

•    Will co-rumination partially explain gender differences in friendship and emotional adjustment?   Will the mediating role that co-rumination plays in accounting for gender differences in adjustment vary by culture?

•    Although co-rumination has and is expected to be associated with positive friendship, is it also related to negative interactions within close friendships?  Will these associations vary by culture?

3) Explore cultural differences in co-rumination, self-disclosure, rumination, coping, stress, and social anxiety.  Examine relational mobility and relational concerns as possible explanations for expected cultural differences in social processes (i.e., co-rumination, self-disclosure, primary control coping) and social anxiety. 

List of Measures

Please see conference handouts for more information.