Young people's beliefs about intergenerational communication: An initial cross-cultural comparison

Angie Williams, Hiroshi Ota, Howard Giles, Herbert D. Pierson, Cynthia Gallois, Sik Hung Ng, Tae Seop Lim, Ellen Bouchard Ryan, Lilnabeth Somera, John Maker, Debra Cai, Jake Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


This article examines young people's perceptions of their conversations with older people (age 65-85) across nine cultures - five Eastern and four Western. Responses from more than 1,000 participants were entered into a cross-national factor analysis, which revealed four initial factors that underlie perceptions of intergenerational conversations. Elder nonaccommodation was when young participants reported that older people negatively stereotyped the young and did not attend to their communication needs. On the other hand, elder accommodation was when older people were perceived as supportive, attentive and generally encouraging to young people. A third factor was respect/ obligation and a fourth factor labeled age-irrelevant positivity described a situation where young people felt conversations with much older people were emotionally positive and satisfying, age did not matter. Examining cross-cultural differences, some East versus West differences were observed, as might be expected, on the basis of simplistic accounts of Eastern collectivism versus Western individualism. However, the results challenge commonsense notions of the status of old age in Eastern versus Western cultures. On some dimensions, participants from Korea, Japan, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines appear to have relatively less positive perceptions of their conversations with older people than the Western cultures - the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. But there was also evidence of considerable cultural variability, particularly among Eastern cultures - variability that has heretofore all too often been glossed over when global comparisons of East versus West are made. A range of explanations for these cultural differences is explored and implications for older people in these societies are also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-393
Number of pages24
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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