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K-State Today

March 22, 2013

Researchers study effects of social values and equity perception on romantic relationships in three countries, will present findings at June international conference

Submitted by Young-ok Yum

Young-ok Yum, associate professor of communication studies; Joyce Baptist, associate professor in the School of Family Studies and Human Services; and Daniel J. Canary, professor at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, surveyed university students in the U.S., Malaysia and Singapore to identify the effects of social values and perceptions of equity on maintaining romantic relationships.

Researchers looked at how the different levels of emphasis on self-expression values affect perceived relational maintenance and equity in Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. Self-expression signifies a societal emphasis on individual right, egalitarian beliefs and the personal freedom to choose a romantic partner.

The researchers chose the three countries because of their similar historic paths and conservative social values, which include national pride, family loyalty and an adherence to religious authorities and tradition.

Yet the U.S., Malaysia and Singapore vastly differ in how they value self-expression.

The U.S. highly values self-expression; Malaysia places moderate emphasis on self-expression; and Singapore places a low value on self-expression.

Researchers found that U.S. and Malaysian participants self-reported more use of maintenance strategies on their romantic relationships than Singaporeans did.

However, equity theory — the theory that perception of equitable treatment in a relationship will boost positive communication behavior — explained the use of maintenance strategies only for Americans. According to the results, Americans indicated using more maintenance strategies when they felt were being treated fairly in an ongoing romantic relationship. 

The data also showed gender differences emerged only for the Americans.

Researchers used a U.S.-generated maintenance strategy instrument across these countries for the study. In the next study, they plan to test the latency of the instrument for each country as well as collect data in other understudied countries.

The study and findings will be presented in June at the 63rd annual convention of the International Communication Association in London. The study is part of the division spotlight for highly-rated competitive papers in interpersonal communication.

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