Cultural values and social exchange in long-distance dating relationships

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The goal of this thesis was to examine how different cultural values influence the use of maintenance behaviors and the fulfillment of comparison level in long-distance dating relationships. Related intercultural studies have found that people in the United States tend to be more individualistic, while people from Asian countries are comparatively more collectivistic (e.g. Hofstede, 2001; Ting-Toomey, 2010). As suggested by social exchange theory (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959), relational satisfaction is determined by the fulfillment of comparison level for the use of maintenance behaviors. However, most empirical studies examined the link between maintenance behaviors and satisfaction, but very little research has connected comparison level with satisfaction. Besides, previous studies have not associated cultural factors with relational maintenance. Thus, by conducting a survey (N=102) on both American and Chinese who are currently in long-distance dating relationships, this thesis fills the gap in interpersonal communication literature by 1) bringing cultural values in the contexts of long-distance dating relationships, and 2) linking comparison level to relational satisfaction. Counter to previous findings, this study found that both American and Chinese participants favored Horizontal Individualism, and there was no significant difference in scores of four types of individualism/collectivism for American and Chinese participants. However, differences still exist in their personal use of maintenance behaviors. American participants reported the maintenance behaviors of assurances and tasks as most frequently used, while Chinese participants reported that of positivity. When participants were asked to report their partners' use of maintenance behaviors, both American and Chinese reported assurances as the most frequently used strategy, which mostly met their expectations. Besides, the use of each and all of the five maintenance behaviors met the expectations in each and total samples. Regarding the correlation between the fulfillment of comparison level and relational satisfaction, findings of the American sample showed that satisfaction was positively associated with positivity, assurances, and tasks. In the Chinese sample, satisfaction was positively correlated with tasks, but negatively correlated with openness.

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