Face and Facework in Conflicts With Parents and Siblings: A

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Face and Facework in Conflicts With Parents and Siblings: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Germans, Japanese, Mexicans, and U.S. Americans Article  in  Journal of Family Communication · April 2003 DOI: 10.1207/S15327698JFC0302_01





6 authors, including: John Oetzel

Stella Ting-Toomey

The University of Waikato

California State University, Fullerton





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THE JOURNAL OF FAMILY COMMUNICATION, 3(2), 67–93 Copyright © 2003, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Face and Facework in Conflicts With Parents and Siblings: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Germans, Japanese, Mexicans, and U.S. Americans John Oetzel Department of Communication and Journalism University of New Mexico

Stella Ting-Toomey Department of Speech Communication California State University, Fullerton

Martha Idalia Chew-Sanchez Global Studies Department St. Lawrence University

Richard Harris School of Management Chukyo University

Richard Wilcox International Programs Fachhochschule Nürtingen

Siegfried Stumpf Department of Psychology University of Regensburg

The study examined the effects of national culture, self-construals, and power distance on face concerns and facework behaviors during conflicts with parents and sibCorrespondence concerning this article should be addressed to John Oetzel, Department of Communication and Journalism, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131. E-mail: [email protected]



lings. A total of 449 participants of 4 national cultures completed a questionnaire in their respective languages: Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the United States. The questionnaire measured 3 face concerns and 11 facework behaviors in recalled conflicts with either a sibling or a parent. The major findings of the study are as follows: (a) self-construals had strong effects on face concerns and facework with independence positively associated with self-face and dominating facework and interdependence positively associated with other- and mutual-face and integrating and avoiding facework behaviors; (b) power distance had small, positive effects on self-face, other-face, avoiding facework, and dominating facework; (c) national culture had small to medium effects with individualistic, small power distance cultures having more self-face and mutual-face and using more dominating and integrating facework and less avoiding facework; (d) Germans have more self-face and used defending more than U.S. Americans; (e) Japanese used more expression than Mexicans; and (f) individuals in conflict with parents were more likely to use respect and expression and less likely to use aggression, pretend, and third party than individuals in conflict with siblings.

Conflict is “the perceived and/or actual incompatibility of values, expectations, processes, or outcomes between two or more parties over substantive and/or relational issues” (Ting-Toomey, 1994, p. 360). The topic of conflict in familial relationships has not been overlooked. One recent study found that there were 2,500 independent research studies in psychology journals and dissertations from 1926 to 1994 on the topic of conflict in family relationships (Laursen, Coy, & Collins, 1998; also see Cahn, 1990, for a review of conflict in intimate and family relationships). However, there are scant few that examine conflict in family relationships cross-culturally. The examination of cross-cultural, family conflicts has important implications for a culturally diverse society such as the United States. By the year 2020, it is expected that the nation’s population will be comprised of 64% White, non-Hispanic; 12.9% African American; 6.5% Asian; and 16% Hispanic; compared to 76%, 11.5%, 1.6%, and 9%, respectively, in 1990 (Judy & D’Amico, 1997). Judy and D’Amico explained that immigration, recent and future, is a major driving force of the cultural and ethnic diversification. The increased immigration means that there will be more and more families who are influenced by different cultural values (see Gudykunst & Lee, 2001; Socha & Diggs, 1999). The way that conflict is managed in these families will impact a variety of people such as counselors, teachers, social workers, and employers. It is important that the decisions reached by these individuals about these conflicts come from a culturally sensitive framework (e.g., see Fontaine, 1990). One culturally sensitive framework for understanding cross-cultural conflict (regardless of context) is face-negotiation theory (Ting-Toomey, 1988; Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998; Ting-Toomey & Oetzel, 2001). Face-negotiation theory argues that face is an explanatory mechanism for different styles of conflict management in different cultural groups. “Face” represents an individual’s



claimed sense of positive image in the context of social interaction (Ting-Toomey, 1988). Ting-Toomey argued that everyone has face concerns during conflict, but that members of different cultures negotiate face in different ways because of different levels of face concerns. The different ways individuals negotiate face is “facework,” or the communication strategies individuals use to challenge or uphold face. The purpose of this study is to investigate face and facework in family conflicts across four national cultures: Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the United States. Specifically, we examined conflicts that young adults (or late adolescents) recalled with either a parent or a sibling. We explored the influence of several factors on face concerns and facework in these conflicts: (a) national culture, (b) self-construals, (c) power distance, and (d) familial relationship (parent or sibling). The study seeks to extend the applicability of face-negotiation theory to family conflicts as well as illustrate explanation for conflict management behavior in cross-cultural family situations.

FACE-NEGOTIATION THEORY The concept of face originated in Chinese culture. Goffman (1955) was one of the first Western writers to examine face and his definition of face was influenced by the Chinese concept of face (e.g., Hu, 1944). He conceptualized face as “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself [herself] by the line others assume he [she] has taken during a participant contact” (p. 213). Goffman explained that face can be lost, saved, and protected and that when people fail to present an image of self-competently, they take counteractions (e.g., facework restoration strategies) to the face-threat. Following Goffman (1955), a number of researchers have examined face and its implications for communication behaviors. Perhaps the most influential approach for investigating facework is politeness theory (Brown & Levinson, 1978, 1987). Politeness theory has been widely criticized (e.g., Lim & Bowers, 1991; Tracy & Baratz, 1993; Wilson, Aléman, & Leatham, 1996), but also has influenced a great deal of research about facework. Some researchers have utilized politeness theory (directly or extending politeness theory) to examine face in compliance-gaining (Wilson et al., 1996), intellectual discourse (Tracy & Baratz, 1993), giving social support (Goldsmith & Fitch, 1997), crisis negotiation (Rogan & Hammer, 1994), and managing social predicaments (Cupach & Imahori, 1993). Additionally, some researchers have offered revised models of facework to address shortcomings of politeness theory (e.g., Lim & Bowers, 1991; Wilson et al., 1996). The research on politeness helps to illustrate how the type of goals and situational factors such as relational distance influence facework strategies. However, these approaches are not sufficient for this study because they do not examine conflict situations specifi-



cally. The politeness approach emphasizes mitigating threat to other-face (e.g., minimizing the positive and negative face of the other during a request situation), but does not focus on self-face. Self- and other-face are important during conflict as interactants manage the situation. Further, although emphasizing that culture plays an important role for face, most studies from the politeness perspective have not examined cross-cultural aspects of facework (exceptions are Brown & Levinson, 1987; Cupach & Imahori, 1993). These limitations can be addressed using the face-negotiation theory. In this section, we overview the assumptions of face-negotiation theory, define face and facework within the face-negotiation theory, and discuss the influence of cultural, individual-level, and familial relationships on face and facework during conflict. Assumptions of Face-Negotiation Theory The work of Goffman (1955) and Brown and Levinson (1987) influenced the development of face-negotiation theory. Ting-Toomey and her colleagues (Ting-Toomey, 1988; Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998) developed face-negotiation theory to provide a sound explanatory construct to explain differences and similarities in face and facework during conflict. In a nutshell, the face negotiation theory argues that (a) people in all cultures try to maintain and negotiate face in all communication situations; (b) the concept of face becomes especially problematic in uncertainty situations (such as embarrassment situations and conflict situations) when the situated identities of the communicators are called into question; (c) cultural variability, individual-level variables, and situational variables influence cultural members’ selection of face concerns over others (such as self-oriented face-saving vs. other-oriented face-saving); and (d) subsequently, cultural variability, individual-level variables, and situational variables influence the use of various facework and conflict strategies in intergroup and interpersonal encounters. Face-negotiation theory has not been used in family situations, but it appears to be applicable. Family members have particular cultural and individual orientations that likely influence behavior in a variety of family conflict situations. In this study, we focus on the type of familial relationship (parent or sibling) as the specific situational factor. Face and Facework Face-negotiation theory emphasizes three face concerns. “Self-face” is the concern for one’s own image, “other-face” is the concern for another’s image, and “mutual-face” is concern for both parties’ images or the “image” of the relationship (Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998). Facework is used to manage these concerns during conflict and has a variety of functions. Facework is employed to resolve a conflict, exacerbate a conflict, avoid a conflict, threaten or challenge another per-



son, protect a person’s image, etc. These functions are part of the process of maintaining and upholding face. Facework focuses on relational, identity, and substantive issues during conflict. Conceptualizing facework in this manner represents a departure from previous views about facework. Most prior research on facework conceptualizes face as a secondary goal that supports or constrains the primary goal(s) during an interaction (e.g., influencing someone or managing substantive issues; e.g., Brown & Levinson, 1987; Wilson et al., 1996). We argue that face is not necessarily a secondary goal, especially when considering cross-cultural conflict. In many cultures (e.g., Japan and Mexico), face is a primary concern in social interaction and supercedes “primary” goals. Additionally, the nature of conflict intertwines substantive, relational, and identity issues so that people are simultaneously managing multiple goals. Finally, the use of substantive tactics can be the result of face concerns. For example, cooperating may be the result of wanting to be thought of highly by others rather than trying to resolve the conflict. Further, competing may result from wanting to present a credible image to others. A recent study describes a typology of facework behaviors during interpersonal conflicts (Oetzel, Ting-Toomey, Yokochi, Masumoto, & Takai, 2000). Oetzel and his associates (2000) completed a study in several stages and found 13 different types of facework behavior during conflicts with best friends or relative strangers: (a) aggression, (b) apologize, (c) avoid, (d) compromise, (e) consider the other, (f) defend self, (g) express feelings, (h) give in, (i) involve a third party, (j) pretend, (k) private discussion, (l) remain calm, and (m) talk about the problem. Oetzel et al. asked participants to rate the appropriateness and effectiveness of three messages within each of the categories. Factor analysis of these ratings revealed three underlying categories. Aggression and defend self were examples of dominating facework. Dominating facework focuses on presenting a credible image and wanting to win the conflict. Avoid, give in, involve a third party, and pretend were examples of avoiding facework. Avoiding facework emphasizes the preservation of relational concerns by not directly addressing the conflict. Apologize, compromise, consider the other, private discussion, remain calm, and talk about the problem were examples of integrating facework. Integrating facework emphasizes both the resolution of the conflict and the preservation of the relationship. Express feelings was associated with both dominating and integrating facework. Cultural Variables Individualism–collectivism (I–C) and power distance are cultural variables integrated into the face-negotiation theory. Individualism is a social pattern that consists of loosely linked individuals who view themselves as independent of collectives and who give priority to their personal goals over the goals of others (Triandis, 1995). Collectivism is a social pattern consisting of closely linked individuals who see themselves as part of one or more collectives (family, coworkers,



tribe, nation) and are willing to give priority to the goals of these collectives over their own personal goals (Triandis, 1995). Ting-Toomey and Kurogi (1998) reviewed previous research (e.g., Ting-Toomey et al., 1991) to show that individualists have a high self-face concern that tends to result in employing dominating conflict strategies in general, cooperating conflict strategies during task interactions, and self-honoring face behavior during competitive situations. In contrast, collectivists have a high other-face concern that leads to avoiding or obliging conflict strategies in general, and high mutual-face concerns that lead to cooperating conflict strategies during relational interactions. Power distance is “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally” (Hofstede, 1991, p. 28). People in small-power distance cultures believe that power should be distributed relatively equally, people should have equal rights, and status should be diminished. People in large-power distance cultures believe that power should be distributed unequally, accept hierarchical relations, and reward and sanction based on rank and status. Power distance and I–C are related in many societies. Specifically, collectivistic cultures tend also to be large-power distance cultures and individualistic cultures tend also to be small-power distance cultures (Hofstede, 1991). This study examines four national cultures: Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the United States. Hofstede’s (1991) study of national cultures revealed the following information about these cultures: (a) Germany is classified as moderately individualistic and relatively small-power distance, (b) Japan is classified as moderately collectivistic and large-power distance, (c) Mexico is classified as collectivistic and large-power distance, and (d) the United States is classified as individualistic and relatively small-power distance. Ting-Toomey and Kurogi (1998) linked power distance to horizontal and vertical facework. However, because we did not examine horizontal and vertical facework and the fact that I–C and power distance are linked in the four national cultures in this study, we propose the following hypothesis about face and facework for family conflict in these cultures: H1. Family members of individualistic, small-power distance cultures have a greater self-face concern, have lesser other- and mutual-face concerns, use more dominating facework, and use less avoiding and integrating facework than family members of collectivistic large-power distance cultures. Face-negotiation theory only includes cultural difference at a cultural variability level (I–C and power distance). However, there are also differences within individualistic (i.e., between the United States and Germany) and collectivistic cultures (i.e., between Japan and Mexico). Clackworthy (1996) explained that Germans have a tendency to be direct and confrontive during conflict. To some U.S. Americans, the German conflict management style appears rigid and blunt. Hall and Hall



(1990) further noted that Germans defend their position during discussion. In contrast, U.S. Americans like to be direct and confront conflict, but their initial approach is to try to benefit both parties’ interests and resolve conflicts. They attempt to resolve conflict in a “calm and rational” manner. If a resolution is not forthcoming, then they attempt to defend their position. Oetzel et al. (2001) empirically found support for these anecdotal suggestions; specifically, Germans had more self-face and used defending more than U.S. Americans. Based on this anecdotal research, we offer the following hypothesis: H2: German family members have more self-face concern and utilize defending more than U.S. American family members. Several researchers have found that both Mexicans and Japanese prefer to avoid conflict if possible, utilize indirect and avoiding strategies to resolve conflict, and have strong other- and mutual-face concerns (Cocroft & Ting-Toomey, 1994; Gabrielidis, Stephan, Ybarra, Pearson, & Villareal, 1997; Lindsley & Braithwaite, 1996). There also appear to be two differences between these two cultures. First, Mexicans value emotional expressions during interactions (Condon, 1985). Mexicans value passion and spontaneity. In contrast, Japanese believe that it is inappropriate to display one’s emotions (Gudykunst & Nishida, 1994). During interaction with others (especially about disagreeable issues), Japanese value restraint and control over emotions. Second, Mexicans have a strong independent self in regard to respect and disrespect issues within the larger context of interdependent values (Gabrielidis et al., 1997). Although they prefer to avoid conflict, they will defend themselves strongly if they think they are being treated unfairly or disrespectfully. Japanese appear to be less likely to defend themselves and utilize integrating facework when avoiding is not successful. Thus, we pose the third hypothesis: H3. Mexican family members have a greater self-face concern and use defend and expression more than Japanese family members. Individual-Level Variables The relation between cultural-level variables and facework during conflict is mediated by individual-level factors (Gudykunst et al., 1996). Facework is learned within the primary socialization process of one’s cultural or ethnic group. Individuals learn the norms and scripts for appropriate and effective conflict conduct in their immediate cultural environment. Additionally, these tendencies in turn also influence individual-level factors such as the way individuals conceive of themselves. Thus, individuals enact facework and they can vary from the predominant cultural framework of a society (e.g., being interdependent in an individualistic culture). Essentially, cultural values have a direct effect on facework behaviors and



an indirect effect on facework behaviors that is mediated through individual-level factors (Gudykunst et al., 1996; Kim et al., 1996; Singelis & Brown, 1995). Self-construal is a key individual factor that focuses on individual variation within and between cultures (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Self-construal is one’s self-image and is composed of an independent and an interdependent self. The independent construal of self involves the view that an individual is a unique entity with an individuated repertoire of feelings, cognitions, and motivations. In contrast, the interdependent construal of self involves an emphasis on the importance of relational connectedness (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). A recent study illustrates how self-construal is related to family communication. Diggs (1999) found that Black adolescents have a broader base for self-esteem compared to White adolescents. Specifically, Black teens have more people (parents, peers, etc.) that influence self-esteem than White teens. This finding is consistent with African American values of interdependence, in contrast to White American values of independence, (Hecht, Collier, & Ribeau, 1993) in defining and evaluating the self. There has been no direct research linking self-construal to face or facework. However, when communicating with others, high independents believe in striving for personal goals, being in control of their external environment, and expressing their needs assertively. In general, independents appear to be more self-face oriented than other-face oriented. In contrast, when communicating with others, high interdependents value other-face and mutual-face concerns. They are eager to appeal to other-face concerns in problematic situations to preserve relational harmony and to avoid public embarrassment. A recent study links self-construals to conflict styles. Oetzel (1998b) found that dominating styles are associated positively with independence, whereas avoiding, obliging, compromising, and integrating styles are associated positively with interdependence. Based on the research on self-construals, we offer the following hypotheses:1 H4. The more independent family members’ self-construal, the more they have self-face concern and use dominating facework. H5. The more interdependent family members’ self-construal, the more they have other- and mutual-face concerns and use avoiding and integrating facework. 1Ting-Toomey and Kurogi (1998) offered propositions based on self-construal types. Self-construal types result from the combination of the two self-construal dimensions. The result is four categories of self-construal: biconstrual (high on both independent and interdependent self-construals), independent (high independent and low interdependent), interdependent (low independent and high interdependent), and ambivalent (low on both independent and interdependent self-construals). Any given individual is typed into one of the categories based on their placement along the two self-construal dimensions. There is debate about the use of self-construal types or dimensions. Some scholars have argued that different communication situations lead to the salience of predominantly either an independent or interdependent self-construal (Gudykunst et al., 1996). In this study, we consider situational factors and thus we base our hypotheses on the dimensions of self-construal, rather than the types.



Power distance also has an individual-level component. Similarly to the arguments with self-construal, cultures are categorized as large- and small-power distance, but individuals do not necessarily follow all cultural values. Thus, some individuals in large-power distance cultures believe that power should be distributed evenly, whereas some individuals in small-power distance cultures believe that power should be distributed unevenly. Ting-Toomey and Kurogi (1998) only proposed cultural-level differences of power distance. However, prior research on politeness theory offers some indication about the effect of power distance (and status) on face concerns and facework. Brown and Levinson (1987) proposed that the more power individuals have, the less polite they are. Lim and Bowers (1991) examined the messages 300 student participants reported using to request a group member to redo work on a project. The authors found that the more power they had, the less likely they were to use tactful facework (Lim & Bowers, 1991). Thus, it appears that the following hypothesis is warranted: H6. The more family members endorse power distance, the more they have self-face concerns and use dominating facework. Face and Facework in Conflicts With Parents and Siblings Although there have been a number of studies about cross-cultural face and facework during interpersonal and group conflicts (e.g., Oetzel, 1998a; Ting-Toomey et al., 1991), there are limited studies examining face and facework in cross-cultural conflicts with parents and siblings. In this section, we utilize the existing literature to extrapolate the relations among the cultural- and individual-level factors and face and facework in these types of conflicts. First, we briefly discuss research focusing on conflict in the parent–child and sibling–sibling relationships. Second, we discuss cultural differences in the nature of these relationships. Our purpose is not to provide an exhaustive review of the effects of parent–child conflict on child adjustment and behaviors (see Canary, Cupach, & Messman, 1995; Conger, 2001; Cummings, Goeke-Morey, & Papp, 2001; for reviews), but rather to include research that is applicable to face-negotiation theory and this study. How do young adults handle conflict with their parents and siblings? There are several explanations including parent conflict styles, developmental models, and cultural and personal characteristics of family members. Recent studies demonstrate that the conflict styles of the parents have a direct relation on the conflict styles of the siblings (Canary et al., 1995; Reese-Weber, 2000; Reese-Weber & Bartle-Haring, 1998). For example, Cummings et al. (2001) noted that conflict between parents directly affects adjustment and behavior of children. Specifically, conflict-ridden marital relations and destructive family conflict patterns lead to poor adjustment and poor social competencies (e.g., destructive conflict behavior)



of adolescents. The results of these studies illustrate that children utilize a similar conflict style with their parents and their siblings. Another perspective adding insight into face and facework during conflict is developmental models of adolescence (e.g., see Canary et al., 1995; Conger & Ge, 1999; Laursen et al., 1998). A thorough review of this literature is beyond the scope of this study; generally, most theories of adolescent development predict significant changes in parent–child interactions as a function of maturation. Previous research suggests that puberty increases conflicts between parents and children because these conflicts assure that adolescents will turn their attention from family members to peers (Conger & Ge, 1999). Essentially, it appears adolescents develop a high self-face concern in these situations. Further, a recent meta-analytical study found that conflict decreases from adolescence to adulthood (Laursen et al., 1998). This study suggests that the face concerns of young adults may change from self-face to other- and mutual-face over the course of time. A third perspective focuses on the cultural and personal characteristics of the family members. Socha and Diggs (1999) discussed the importance of a multiple factor approach, including ethnic identity, cultural variability (e.g., individualism and collectivism), and family systems, for discussions (and perhaps conflicts) about race in Black and White families. In a similar multifactor approach, Barber (1994) examined 1,828 White, Black, and Hispanic families with adolescents in an attempt to explain variations in levels of conflict between parents and adolescents. Barber found that there were some minor cultural differences in the management of conflict. Specifically, White families had more conflict than Black and Hispanic families. This difference is consistent with the face-negotiation theory in that White Americans have origins in individualistic cultures, whereas Black and Hispanic Americans have origins in collectivistic cultures. Additionally, the profile of conflicted families featured parents and adolescents who were younger and parents of a higher level of education. Biological versus step relationships had only a minor impact. However, for all families, positive (e.g., happy and gets along with others) and negative (e.g., unhappy and depressed) personality attributes were the most powerful predictors of conflict. This latter finding is consistent with the face-negotiation theory in that self-construal is generally the most powerful predictor of conflict behavior (Oetzel, 1998b). In sum, young adults’ conflict behavior appears to be a function of their parent’s conflict behavior, their struggle to develop an independent identity from their parents, and their own cultural and personality characteristics. However, most research on conflict in familial relations has been conducted in Western cultures such as the United States. As demonstrated by the face-negotiation model, face and facework are greatly influenced by cultural values of individualism–collectivism and power distance. We use power distance to frame cross-cultural differences in family conflicts because power is a relevant distinction between parents and siblings. That is, the parent–child relationship demon-



strates a difference in power and the sibling–sibling relationship demonstrates equality in power (Adams & Laursen, 2001). In small-power distance cultures, children can contradict their parents and speak their own minds. They are expected to show self-initiative and parents and children work toward achieving a democratic family decision-making process. In large-power distance cultures, children are expected to obey their parents. The value of respect between unequal status members in the family is taught at a young age. Parents assume the authority role in the family decision-making process (Hofstede, 1991; Ting-Toomey, 1999). Given the difference in power distance of the countries of study, we expect Japan and Mexico to demonstrate large distinctions in face concerns and face behaviors in conflicts with parents and siblings, whereas Germany and the United States would not have as great of differences in the same conflicts. Additionally, as we reviewed earlier, prior research on politeness theory indicates that the greater status, the less polite a person becomes (Brown & Levinson, 1987; Lim & Bowers, 1991). This may indicate that individuals in conflict with parents are more likely to use polite strategies than individuals in conflict with siblings (i.e., integrating and avoiding facework, but not dominating facework) given that impoliteness begets impoliteness. Based on this research, we offer the following hypotheses: H7. Individuals in conflict with parents have greater other-face concerns and utilize more avoiding and integrating facework and less dominating facework than individuals in conflict with siblings. H8. Family members of collectivistic, large-power distance cultures, have greater differences in face concerns and facework in conflicts with parents versus conflicts with siblings compared to family members of individualistic, small-power distance cultures.

METHODS Participants The sample for the four national cultures consisted of 449 participants. There were 266 women and 183 men (mean age = 21.52; SD = 3.98). The respondents were 104 students from a small technical university in Germany, 130 students from a large university in Japan, 93 students from a large university in Northern Mexico, and 122 students from a large university in the southwestern United States. In the German sample, there were 77 women and 27 men (mean age = 22.57; SD = 2.79); 61 reported on a conflict with a parent and 43 reported on a conflict with a sibling. In the Japanese sample, there were 42 women and 88 men (mean age = 19.83; SD = 2.05); 78 reported on a conflict with a parent and 52 reported on a conflict with a sibling. In the Mexican sample, there were 63 women and 30 men (mean age =



21.34; SD = 4.30); 50 reported on a conflict with a parent and 43 reported on a conflict with a sibling. In the U.S. American sample, there were 84 women and 38 men. The ethnic backgrounds included 55 European Americans, 41 Latino(a) Americans, and 28 others (including African Americans, Asian or Asian Americans, and Native Americans; mean age = 22.51; SD = 5.25); 74 reported on a conflict with a parent and 48 reported on a conflict with a sibling. Instrument The objective of the study was to determine the influence of national culture, self-construal, and power distance on face concerns and facework behaviors in conflicts in the context of the family. A questionnaire format was utilized to investigate this objective. The independent variables were type of familial relationship, national culture, self-construal, and power-distance. Familial relationship was manipulated in the instructions provided to the respondents. Specifically, the respondents were asked to recall a conflict with either a same-sex parent or same-sex sibling. National culture was measured with a single item (i.e., what is your country of permanent residence?). We measured self-construal with 20 items from a previously validated 29-item instrument of self-construal (Gudykunst et al., 1996). Ten items measured independent self-construal and 10 items measured interdependent self-construal. For example, independent items included “I should be judged on my own merit” and “I took responsibility for my own actions.” Interdependent items included “My group memberships played a large role in my view of myself” and “I respected the decisions made by the other person.” The instructions asked participants to respond to the items in regards to the recalled conflict. Nine items (e.g., “I act as fellow group members prefer I act” and “I try to abide by customs and conventions at work”) were dropped from the original scale because of the difficulty in rewriting the items to be relevant to a recalled interpersonal conflict. Cronbach alphas for this study were (a) independence: G = .56, J = .67, M = .59, U.S. = .64 and (b) interdependence: G = .62, J = .66, M = .66, U.S. = .61. We measured power distance with an 8-item scale (Earley & Erez, 1997) and one item written by the authors. The wording of the items was changed from the managerial focus of the original scale to a general focus. For example, in the first item, “In most situations, managers should make decisions without consulting their subordinates,” the word “managers” was changed to “people in authority.” The items were written in a general phrasing, rather than to the specific situation. Cronbach alphas for power distance in this study were G = .64, J = .74, M = .68, and U.S. = .77. The dependent variables were face concerns (self, other, and mutual) and facework behaviors. We measured face concerns with a 22-item scale: 11 for other-face, 7 for self-face, and 4 for mutual-face (Oetzel et al., 2001). The scales all



had sufficient reliability for four national cultures (China, Germany, Japan, and the United States) ranging from .71 to .91. Cronbach alphas for this study were self-face: G = .79, J = .77, M = .66, U.S. = .84; other-face: G = .88, J = .86, M = .87, U.S. = .85; and mutual-face: G = .79, J = .77, M = .77, U.S. = .77. Finally, we measured facework behaviors with a 63-item scale for 11 face categories discovered in a previous study (Oetzel et al., 2001). Oetzel et al. (2001) factor analyzed an 87-item scale and found the 11 face categories. The majority of the Cronbach alphas for the four national cultures of that study (China, Germany, Japan, and the United States) were above .60 and many were above .80. Therefore, we chose to utilize the scale for this study. Cronbach alphas for this study were as follows: (a) aggression (G = .86, J = .91, M = .83, U.S. = .88), (b) problem solve (G = .91, J = .83, M = .85, U.S. = .88), (c) defend (G = .76, J = .81, M = .81, U.S. = .81), (d) respect (i.e., consider the other: G = .86, J = .73, M = .84, U.S. = .61), (e) apologize (G = .87, J = .76, M = .86, U.S. = .87), (f) pretend (G = .83, J = .66, M = .70, U.S. = .85), (g) third party (G = .82, J = .85, M = .84, U.S. = .84), (h) express feelings(G = .67, J = .74, M = .59, U.S. = .72), (i) remain calm (G = .73, J = .80, M = .71, U.S. = .70), (j) private discussion (G = .65, J = .60, M = .41, U.S. = .69), and (k) give in (G = .55, J = .69, M = .65, U.S. = .77). The items for each variable were averaged to create a composite score. All of the items were measured with a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 5 (strongly agree) to 1 (strongly disagree). In cross-cultural research, it has been frequently found that some cultures score higher across all response categories than other cultures. In general, individualists tend to choose more extreme values on scales than do collectivists. To control statistically for such response bias, relative scores rather than raw scores were computed for each culture by subtracting mean scores from raw scores (Ohbuchi, Fukushima, & Tedeschi, 1999). The mean scores across responses for each culture were as follows: Germany, 2.98; Japan, 2.87; Mexico, 3.24; and the United States, 3.21. Procedures The questionnaire asked the participants to recall a conflict with either a same-sex parent or sibling. Conflict was defined for the participants as any “intense disagreement between two parties that involves incompatible goals, needs, or viewpoints.” The participants were asked to remember a particular conflict and respond to a series of items about the conflict. The questionnaire was laid out in the following format: (a) self-construal items, (b) face concern items, (c) face behavior items, (d) items describing the conflict, (e) power distance items, and (f) demographics. We wrote the questionnaire in English and then translated and backtranslated it into German, Japanese, and Spanish to ensure conceptual equivalence. All participants completed the questionnaire in their native language. Participants were recruited via undergraduate courses and many were given extra credit for participat-



ing. The questionnaire was self-administered and required approximately 30 min to complete. Participants completed the questionnaire on their own time and returned it to the researchers. Description of Recalled Conflicts and Manipulation Checks There were 11 items that asked the participants to describe the person and conflict that they recalled. We asked them to describe the nature of the relationship with the other person (e.g., parent, sibling, or other, such as a step-parent), the nature of the conflict (task, relationship, or both), the sex of the other person, the seriousness of the conflict (from 5 [very] to 1 [not very]), the extent to which the conflict affected the relationship (from 5 [great extent] to 1 [little extent]), how well they recalled the conflict (from 5 [great extent] to 1 [little extent]), the degree of closeness (three items), and the power difference in the relationship (two items). The following significant differences were discovered (see Table 1 for means and frequencies): (a) Mexicans reported more relationship conflicts than the other cultures, Japanese reported more task conflicts than the other cultures, and U.S. Americans reported more conflict involving both task and relationship than the other cultures, χ2 (6, N = 438) = 104.49, p < .001 (and examining the standardized residuals in each cell); (b) Mexicans reported less serious conflicts than the other three cultures, F(3, 433) = 7.37, p < .001, η2 = .05 (with Tukey post hoc comparisons at the .05 level); (c) Japanese reported conflicts that had greater effects on the relationship than the other three national cultures, F(3, TABLE 1 Description of Recalled Conflicts United States Nature of conflict Task Relationship Task and relationship Seriousness of conflict Effect on relationship Recall Relational Closeness Power Parents Siblings Independence Interdependence Power distance

34 41 47 .01 (1.07) –.79 (1.32) .27 (1.30) .87 (.82) –.37 (1.04) –.70 (.84) .13 (1.12) 1.01 (.40) .14 (.50) –.69 (.60)


72 39 16 .34 (1.23) –.24 (1.34) .22 (1.27) .62 (.91) .08 (.98) –.17 (.91) .46 (.89) .65 (.53) –.04 (.56) –.15 (.57)



21 48 35 .15 (1.19) –.93 (1.20) .22 (1.16) 1.16 (.75) .22 (1.08) –.03 (.89) .58 (1.23) .73 (.40) .15 (.54) –.61 (.48)

8 68 9 –.42 (1.29) –.88 (1.46) –.28 (1.52) .40 (1.07) –.17 (1.08) –.27 (1.04) –.04 (1.10) .62 (.47) .16 (.59) –.62 (.61)

Note. Nature of conflict is frequency counts. The other variables are means with standard deviations in parentheses.



433) = 6.57, p < .001, η2 = .04 (with Tukey post hoc comparisons at the .05 level); and (d) Mexicans had lesser recall of the conflicts than the other three cultures, F(3, 433) = 3.85, p = .01, η2 = .03 (with Tukey post hoc comparisons at the .05 level). Overall, it appears that participants had a moderate level of recall about the conflicts, and they reported on moderately serious conflicts and conflicts that did not have great effects on the relationship. The closeness and status items were measured with 5-point semantic differential scores. The number 5 signified close, similar, familiar, and equal power and authority; 1 signified distant, strange, dissimilar, and unequal power and authority. Close, familiar, and similar were used as indicators of relational closeness (α: G = .67, J = .73, M = .84, U.S. = .69), where equal power and authority were used as indicators of power (α: G = .74, J = .75, M = .65, U.S. = .86). Analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed that there was a significant difference in reported power, F(1, 447) = 37.38, p < .001, η2 = .08. Participants in conflict with parents reported that they had less power (M = –31., SD = .94) than participants in conflict with siblings (M = .29, SD = 1.10). ANOVA also revealed that there was not a significant difference in the reported closeness, F(1, 447) = 1.18, p = ns, power = .19. To ensure the findings were consistent across the national cultures, we compared the items within each culture. The difference in power was significant in all the cultures except for Mexico. There were no significant differences in relational closeness for each culture. The ANOVA results included the following: Germany: power, F(1, 102) = 8.55, p < .01, η2 = .08, relational closeness, F(1, 102) = .21, p = ns, power = .07; Japan: power, F(1, 128) = 15.23, p < .001, η2 = .11, relational closeness, F(1, 128) = .01, p = ns, power = .05; Mexico: power, F(1, 91) = 1.06, p = ns, power = .17, relational closeness, F(1, 91) = 1.90, p = ns, power = .26; and the United States: power, F(1, 120) = 22.01, p < .001, η2 = .16, relational closeness, F(1, 120) = .01, p = ns, power = .05. Finally, we checked the means of independent self-construal, interdependent self-construal, and power distance to determine if the means of the participants in the four national cultures were in the expected direction. ANOVA revealed a significant difference across the national cultures for independence F(3, 445) = 17.84, p < .001, η2 = .11; interdependence, F(3, 445) = 3.63, p < .05, η2 = .02; and power distance, F(3, 445) = 24.03, p < .001, η2 = .14. Planned comparisons of Germany and the United States to Japan and Mexico revealed that the individualistic cultures were more independent, t(445) = 5.47, p < .001, (I: M = .88, SD = .42; C: M = .64, SD = .51) and had a lower power distance, t(445) = 4.89, p < .001 (I: M = –.65, SD = .55; C: M = –.34, SD =.63), than the collectivistic cultures. There was no significant difference between individualistic and collectivistic cultures for interdependence, t(445) = 1.58, p = ns. We should point out that the significant difference for power distance is largely due to a high mean for Japan. Overall, the cultures included in this study provide an adequate test of the I–C power distance hypothesis.



RESULTS The data were analyzed with multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA). The dependent variables were the face concerns and facework behaviors, the independent variables were national culture, relational closeness, and status, and the covariates were independent self-construal, interdependent self-construal, and power distance. Bartlett’s test of sphericity (1463.99, df = 104, p < .001) indicated that multivariate analysis of covariance was warranted. The results of the MANCOVA are presented in order of the hypotheses.2 Cultural-Level Hypotheses The first hypothesis posited that members of individualistic, small-power distance cultures have a greater self-face concern, have lesser other- and mutual-face concerns, use more dominating facework, and use less avoiding and integrating facework than members of collectivistic large-power distance cultures when participating in a conflict with a family member. Examining the main effects of national culture on the dependent variables tested this hypothesis. Table 2 shows the means and standard deviations for the dependent variables by national culture. The multivariate main effect for national culture was significant, Wilks’s lambda = .60, F(42, 1262) = 5.57, p < .001. Nine of the univariate effects were significant: self-face, F(3, 438) = 6.24, p < .001, η2 = .04; mutual-face, F(3, 438) = 3.13, p < .05, η2 = .02; aggression, F(3, 438) = 2.76, p < .05, η2 = .02; defend, F(3, 438) = 8.22, p < .001, η2 = .05; apologize, F(3, 438) = 3.44, p < .05, η2 = .02; pretend, F(3, 438) = 10.07, p < .001, η2 = .06; remain calm, F(3, 438) = 3.37, p < .05, η2 = .02; private discussion, F(3, 438) = 10.62, p < .001, η2 = .07; and express, F(3, 438) = 4.51, p < .001, η2 = .03. Planned comparisons of the individualistic and collectivistic cultures were utilized to directly test the first hypothesis. For face concerns: (a) individualistic cultures reported more self-face than collectivistic cultures (p < .05), and (b) individualistic cultures reported more mutual-face than collectivistic cultures (p < .01). For dominating facework, individualistic cultures used defending (p < .05) more than collectivistic cultures, but there was no difference in aggression or expression. For integrating facework, individualistic cultures used private discussion (p < .01) more and remain calm (p < .01) less than collectivistic cultures, but there was no difference for apologizing. For avoiding facework, collectivistic cultures used pretend (p < .001) more than individualistic cultures. The first hypothesis was supported partially with some expected findings for the three types of facework and self-face, but unexpected findings for mutual-face. 2Typically with multivariate analysis of covariance, covariates are discussed first because they are the first effect entered.



TABLE 2 Means and Standard Deviations for Face Concerns and Facework United States Dependent Variables Face concerns Other Self Mutual Dominating facework Aggression Defend Expression Avoiding facework Give in Pretend Third party Integrating facework Apologize Problem solve Respect Remain calm Private discussion Note.












–.05a .34a .75a

.61 .81 .70

.01a .30a .44b

.66 .76 .85

–.03a .61a .71ab

.62 .71 .84

.07a .40ab .58ab

.72 .64 .87

–1.01ab .27b .65ab

.87 .72 .69

–.86a .24b .76a

.87 .77 .77

–1.22b .58a .74a

.75 .59 .72

–1.23b .33b .46b

.77 .77 .73

–.67b –.65b –.73a

.97 .92 .96

–.33a –.19a –.65a

.88 .70 .93

–.33a –.81b –.62a

.82 .84 .94

–.30a –.23a –.90a

1.03 .87 1.04

–.28ab .18a .43a .20ab .15a

1.05 .76 .70 .73 .77

–.37a .05bc .14b .34a –.39b

.81 .75 .69 .85 .74

–.62b .07ab .44a –.03b .07a

.98 .82 .79 .77 .76

–.39a .24c .40b .19ab .17a

1.10 .83 .81 .79 .73

Means with different subscripts are significantly different (Tukey tests at .05 level).

The second hypothesis stated that Germans have more self-face concern and utilize defending more than U.S. Americans when participating in a conflict with a family member. The third hypothesis predicted that Mexicans have a greater self-face concern and use defend and expression more than Japanese when engaged in a conflict with a family member. Planned comparisons of the dependent variables revealed that Germans reported a greater self-face concern (p < .01) and used more defending (p < .001) than U.S. Americans. Thus, the second hypothesis was supported. Further planned comparisons of the dependent variables revealed that Japanese used expression more than Mexicans (p < .01). Mexicans reported a greater self-face concern and used more defending, but these differences did not reach statistical significance. Thus, the third hypothesis was not supported. Individual-Level Hypotheses The fourth hypothesis predicted that the more independent individuals’ self-construal, the more they have self-face concern and use dominating facework in family relationship conflict. The fifth hypothesis expressed that the more interdependent individuals’ self-construal, the more they have other- and mutual-face concerns and use avoiding and integrating facework when participating in family



relationship conflict. The sixth hypothesis argued that the more individuals endorse power distance, the more individuals have self-face concerns and use dominating facework in family relationship conflict. These hypotheses were tested with the multivariate covariate effects. The multivariate covariate effect for independent self-construal was significant, Wilks’s lambda = .87, F(14, 425) = 4.75, p < .001. There were four significant univariate effects: self-face, F(1, 438) = 20.96, p < .001, η2 = .05, B = .34, SE B = .08; defend, F(1, 438) = 27.63, p < .001, η2 = .06; B = .38, SE B = .07; expression, F(1, 438) = 18.12, p < .001, η2 = .04; B = .32, SE B = .08; and give in, F(1, 438) = 13.06, p < .001, η2 = .03, B = –.34, SE B = .09. The fourth hypothesis is supported predominantly given the expected findings for self-face, defend, and expression. Aggression was the only expected behavior to not be associated with independence. The multivariate covariate effect for interdependent self-construal was significant, Wilks’s lambda = .63, F(14, 425) = 17.60, p < .001. There were 11 significant univariate effects: self-face, F(1, 438) = 4.61, p < .05, η2 = .01, B = .13, SE B = .06; other-face, F(1, 438) = 135.62, p < .001, η2 = .24, B = .58, SE B = .05; mutual-face, F(1, 438) = 135.90, p < .001, η2 = .24, B = .73, SE B = .06; aggression, F(1, 438) = 5.58, p < .05, η2 = .01, B = –.16, SE B = .07; problem solve, F(1, 438) = 76.03, p < .001, η2 = .15, B = .56, SE B = .06; respect, F(1, 438) = 112.60, p < .001, η2 = .21, B = .61, SE B = .06; apologize, F(1, 438) = 47.95, p < .001, η2 = .10, B = .57, SE B = .08; third party, F(1, 438) = 24.09, p < .001, η2 = .05, B = .40, SE B = .08; remain calm, F(1, 438) = 19.07, p < .001, η2 = .04, B = .30, SE B = .07; private discussion, F(1, 438) = 19.63, p < .001, η2 = .04, B = .29, SE B = .06; and give in, F(1, 438) = 30.91, p < .001, η2 = .07, B = .43, SE B = .08. The fifth hypothesis is supported given the positive relationship between interdependence and other-face, mutual-face, avoiding facework, and integrating facework. Additionally, interdependence was associated negatively with aggression. The multivariate covariate effect for power distance was significant, Wilks’s lambda = .93, F(14, 425) = 2.27, p < .01. There were five significant univariate effects: self-face, F(1, 438) = 4.47, p

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