Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



International Journal of Aging and Human Development 77:3 (2013), pp. 163–188.

doi: 10.2190/AG.77.3.a


Copyright © 2013 Baywood Publishing Co., Inc./Sage. Used by permission.


Data from 365 college students were used to assess young adults’ communicative responses to older persons’ painful self-disclosures (PSDs). Coupland, Coupland, and Giles (1991) proposed that recipients of PSD may respond to such disclosures via a variety of “next moves.” These responses may broadly be considered to reflect forms of prosocial engagement, passive disengagement, and active disengagement. We investigated whether young adults’ tendency to use certain responses to PSD were influenced by their affective reactions to PSD, their communicative background and characteristics, and the socio-relational context of the encounter in which PSD occurred. Results are discussed with respect to their implications for intergenerational interaction, and interpreted through the lens of communication accommodation theory.