Interpersonal Networks in Comparative Perspective:

The Core Discussion Networks in China, Japan, and the US
Ning Hsieh, Department of Demography and Department of Sociology
| CSCC Conference Room

The study compares core discussion networks in three national contexts—China, Japan, and the US, intending to show cross-national differences in the structure of interpersonal networks that are shaped by broader societal structures, cultures, and/or other contextual factors. By analyzing data from the Chinese, Japanese, and American General Social Surveys collected in 2003-2004, the study finds that interpersonal networks vary significantly across social contexts even after socio-demographic profiles are standardized. Specifically, Chinese have the largest network size, followed by Japanese and then Americans. The kin proportion of networks is the highest among Americans, followed by Japanese and then Chinese. Moreover, Chinese networks are the most densely knitted, especially when compared to Japanese networks. Finally, Americans have the highest frequency of contact with their confidants, followed by Japanese and then Chinese. The article contributes to the literature by systematically demonstrating the diversity of interpersonal networks across social contexts and evaluating the role of societal socio-demographic structure in driving the cross-national differences. It also contests the conventional “East versus West” framework of social relationships, arguing that core interpersonal networks do not follow the cultural expectation of individualism versus collectivism by country.