Reaction Profiles by Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese on ‘Skeletons in the Family Closet’ Topics

Charles McHugh (1)
(1) Faculty of International Language and Culture, Setsunan University, 17-8 Ikeda Nakamachi, Neyagawa-shi, Osaka-fu 572-8508, Japan, Japan


Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese (N=250) rated 57 random proposed conversation topics on a five-point scale (i.e., very good, good, neutral, bad, very bad) to a same-culture, same-sex school friend. Five factors emerge and are characterized as: Familial Biographical DataSkeletons in the Family ClosetSmall Talk TopicsPersonal Information Topics, and Intimate Relations Topics. For the 17 topics included in Factor Two, Skeletons in the Family Closet, about 51% of Americans appraise them at neutralgood or very good. Among the Asians, Thais report the lowest percentage at about 22% and Chinese the highest at about 35%. On those topics appraised as either bad or very bad, subjects then selected one of three possible reactions: avoidancefalse information, or silence. Thai and Vietnamese favor silence, choosing it at about 38% of the time, while Chinese and Japanese select avoidance, at about 40%, as the preferred reaction. These results suggest that native English speakers could encounter a higher than expected frequency of avoidance and silence rejection strategies when communicating with Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese on some topics deemed appropriate among Americans.

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Charles McHugh (Primary Contact)
Author Biography

Charles McHugh, Faculty of International Language and Culture, Setsunan University, 17-8 Ikeda Nakamachi, Neyagawa-shi, Osaka-fu 572-8508, Japan

Author Note

I would like to acknowledge the unselfish assistance of Dr. Duong Thieu TONG, especially in statistical analysis. In addition to Dr. Duong Thieu TONG, others participated in translation of the instrument and data collection in the Vietnamese group: Ly minh Tien, Doan van Dieu, Tran quoc Duy, Ngo dinh Qua, Do hanh Nga, Tran thi Thon, Dinh thi Tu, Vo van Nam, Tran Thu Mai, and Ngoc Nga. And in memory of Dr. Aim-on TRUWICHIEN and Quan ZHANG who both translated the original English-language questionnaire and collected data. Katrina WATTS collected data for the Japanese female sample. Dr. Roseanna ROSS collected the American data. Charles McHUGH also appreciates the assistance of Dr. Yukiko BEDFORD, Minori AKAMATSU, and Yuko McDONOUGH in the preparation of the Japanese-language questionnaire. Alan Hunt commented on a former draft of this paper. The reactions by Japanese and Thai appear in a previous study (McHugh et al, 1992) and reactions on items 46 and 53 were published for these five culture groups (McHugh et al., 1996).

Charles McHugh. (1999). Reaction Profiles by Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese on ‘Skeletons in the Family Closet’ Topics. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 1(1), 1–13.

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