Class: Communication Theory

Name: Rebecca L. Stevens


1.  Reference Information

  • Collier, Mary Jane (1996).Communication Competence Problematics in Ethnic Friendships.   Communication Monographs, Vol. 63 December 1996, 314-336.

2.  Institutional Affiliation and Academic Ranks of authors at time of publication

  • Collier, University of Denver, Associate Professor


  • A synthesis of Symbolic Convergence Theory & Social Penetration Theory

  • Key concepts: Communication Competence, Ethnic Friendships

  • Various assumptions were made in the appropriateness of a subjective research point of view to building knowledge. Ethnic background, as well as to emergent normative patterns and the interpretations as they revealed a culture of friendship.The interlocutors' impressions of the text proved the cultural validity of the competencies

  • This study is guided by both interpretivist and objectivist epistemologies

4 Data/Methods

  • Recruited from communication classes, four ethnic groups (African American, Latinos, Asian American, and Anglo American), filled out a questionnaire packet containing questions. Each one to be answered individually then jointly.

5.Findings and Analysis

  • 58 total respondents volunteered from an urban university on the west coast of the United States and were either part of one of the four ethnic groups; Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans, or Anglo Americans; 98  females and 60 males. The respondents were asked to meet with a close friend to help them participate in the study. The pairs varied. Each was given a packet where they would find specific questions regarding their friend. First and individually they were to respond to the questions. Secondly, the pair of friends would jointly answer the questions together and arrive at a consensus. The questions dealt with general conversational rules in their friendship, gender rules in their friendship, and ethnic identity rules in their friendship. Then, they were to give their impressions of such outcomes as feelings about self, other, topic discussed, communication satisfaction, and individual and joint feelings about the friendship. Four research assistants served as the coders for the study. Three being female, one being male, and then the project director. Each coder identified with a particular ethnic group. The utterance in which a speech act or resulting feeling or perception was expressed was the unit of analysis. The coders and project director agreed on criteria on which to categorize the responses. Discussion continued until there was 100% agreement. The overall coding was based on an interpretive paradigm. The majority of the respondents said that they had 2-4 close friends. Half of the respondents said that their friends were of the same sex, and half said that their friends were of the opposite sex. Sixty-four respondents stated that their friends were of the same culture, 15 said that their friends were of a different culture, and 79 remarked that they had friends from their own culture and other cultures as well. Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans felt that it took almost a year to establish a close friendship, while Anglos felt, on average, it took only a few months.

6.Conclusions/ Implications/ Future research

  • The study indicated there are both similarities and differences in normative patterns across ethnic friendships. Some rules are just general in the United States regardless of ethnic background. Differences in that there were some preferred rules and outcomes Individual responses stated that there were no ethnic or cultural rules followed in the friendship. However, in a joint setting, it seemed to change.

  • Future research was mentioned in using a video camera and taping the discussion of the gender as well as the ethnic rules and compare same sex and cross sex friendships. The role of ethnic background may not decrease in importance as relationships develop and that the relationship between culture and friendship processes may be more complex than earlier assumed. Ethnic and gender identity, and preferences for what is talked about and how issues are discussed are relevant concerns among friends, and may be likely for intimates as well.

7. Lines of Criticism:

  • Caution is required when drawing a conclusion due to the small respondent sizes. There were a limited amount of African American respondents.

  • Biases may be formed in the individual descriptions of the friendships because when questionnaires were filled out individually, they were in the midst of their other friend.

[Communication Theory]

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