The Formation of Social Relationships A Longitudinal Study of Social Penetration

Authors

  • C. ARTHUR VANLEAR JR.

    Corresponding author
    1. C. Arthur Van Lear, Jr. (Ph.D., University of Utah, 1985) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This article is a part of my dissertation at the University of Utah, 1985. I would like to thank the members of my doctoral committee: Dennis Alexander, James Anderson, Norman Elliot, Leonard Haas, and especially B. Aubrey Fisher (chair). I would also like to thank my colleagues Kathryn Dindia, Edward Mabry, Robert McPhee, and Kathy Kellerman for their comments, advice, and assistance.
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Requests for reprints should be sent to C. Arthur VanLear, Jr., Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, P. O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201.

Abstract

This study investigated three levels of self-disclosure (public, semiprivate, private-personal) in the social penetration process. The study addressed three questions. (1) What is the nature of changes in the three levels of disclosure over time? (2) Is self-disclosure reciprocated at the three levels of intimacy? (3) Does reciprocity vary over time and, if so, how does it vary? Same-sex zero-history dyads participated in a six-week longitudinal study. The half-hour taped conversations were submitted to interaction analysis. Polynomial trend analyses and Markov analyses were used to analyze the data. The results showed: (1) a convex quadratic trend for private-personal disclosures over time; (2) reciprocity at the same level of intimacy as an interactional norm (especially at the beginning and end of the relationship); (3) a cyclical fluctuation of reciprocal interacts over time. These results were interpreted as elaborating the social penetration process.

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