Psychosocial effects of self-disclosure among Chinese international students in Japan

Focusing on disclosure media and its targets


  • Xingjian Gao Nagoya University
  • Jiro Takai Nagoya university



self-disclosure, Chinese international students, life satisfaction, social support, SNS, face-to-face


This study examined the effects of four types of self-disclosure on the life satisfaction of Chinese international students studying in Japan. Using an online survey, the study found that offline self-disclosure predicted life satisfaction both directly and indirectly, mediated by received social support and perceived social support, while the direct effect of online self-disclosure was not significant. All four types of self-disclosures predicted received social support, while the social support obtained from host nationals online did not affect perceived support. The analysis also revealed that the paths were moderated by the length of residence in Japan. Only online self-disclosure positively and directly predicted life satisfaction for newcomers, while only offline self-disclosure did for those who had stayed longer. Offline received social support was perceived as helpful for both groups, while that of online predicted perceived social support only for newcomers. Theoretical implications and limitations were discussed.

Author Biographies

Xingjian Gao, Nagoya University

XINGJIAN GAO, is a PhD candidate at Nagoya university, Japan. His major research interests lie in the area of intergroup contact, media, international students and cross-cultural communication. Email:

Jiro Takai, Nagoya university

JIRO TAKAI, PhD, is a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at Nagoya university, Japan. His research interests are focused on the topics of interpersonal competence, self-presentation in social interaction, interpersonal conflict resolution strategies, and cross-cultural adjustment. Email:


Allen, D., & Griffeth, R. (1997). Vertical and lateral information processing: The effects of gender, employee classification level, and media richness on communication and work outcomes. Human Relations, 50(10), 1239-1260. DOI:

Altman, I., & Taylor, D. (1983). Social penetration. Irvington Publishers.

Bauer, C., Schmid, K., & Strauss, C. (2018). An open model for researching the role of culture in online self-disclosure. Proceedings of The 51st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. DOI:

Billedo, C. J., Kerkhof, P., Finkenauer, C., & Ganzeboom, H. (2019). Facebook and face-to-face: Examining the short-and long-term reciprocal effects of interactions, perceived social support, and depression among international students. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 24(2), 73-89. jcmc/zmy02 DOI:

Caron, J. (1996). L’Échelle de provisions sociales: la validation québécoise du Social Provisions Scale, Santé mentale au Québec, 21(2), 158-180. DOI:

Cao, C., Meng, Q., & Shang, L. (2018). How can Chinese international students’ host-national contact contribute to social connectedness, social support and reduced prejudice in the mainstream society? Testing a moderated mediation model. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 63, 43-52. DOI:

Cohen, S., & McKay, G. (1984). Social support, stress and the buffering hypothesis: A theoretical analysis. Handbook of psychology and health, 4, 253-267. DOI:

Cohen, S., & Wills, T. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 310-357. DOI:

Chen, G. (1993). Self-disclosure and Asian students' abilities to cope with social difficulties in the United States. The Journal of Psychology, 127(6), 603-610. DOI:

Chen, L., & Yang, X. (2015). Nature and effectiveness of online social support for intercultural adaptation of Mainland Chinese international students. International Journal of Communication, 9(2015), 2161-2181.

Cui, D. (2015). Beyond “connected presence”: Multimedia mobile instant messaging in close relationship management. Mobile Media & Communication, 4(1), 19-36. DOI:

Derlega, V. J., Metts, S., Petronio, S., & Margulis, S. T. (1993). Self-disclosure.

Dolin, D. J., & Booth-Butterfield, M. (1993). Reach out and touch someone: Analysis of nonverbal comforting responses. Communication Quarterly, 41, 383-393. .1080/01463379309369899 DOI:

Edelmann, R. (1985). Individual differences in embarrassment: Self-consciousness, self-monitoring and embarrassibility. Personality and Individual Differences, 6(2), 223-230. DOI:

Gidron, Y., & Ronson, A. (2008). Psychosocial factors, biological mediators and cancer prognosis: A new look at an old story. Current Opinion in Oncology, 20, 386–392. DOI:

Guo, Y., Li, Y., & Ito, N. (2014). Exploring the predicted effect of social networking site use on perceived social capital and psychological well-being of Chinese international students in Japan. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(1), 52-58. DOI:

Gudykunst, W. B. (2005). An anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory of strangers’ intercultural adjustment. Theorizing about intercultural communication,419-457.

Hampton, K., Goulet, S.L., Rainie, L. and Purcell, K. (2011). Social networking sites and our lives. Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Hefner, J., & Eisenberg, D. (2009). Social support and mental health among college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79(4), 491-499. DOI:

Hendrickson, B., Rosen, D., & Aune, R. (2011). An analysis of friendship networks, social connectedness, homesickness, and satisfaction levels of international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(3), 281-295. DOI:

Hooi, R., & Cho, H. (2014). Avatar-driven self-disclosure: The virtual me is the actual me. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 20–28. DOI:

Hofhuis, J., Hanke, K., & Rutten, T. (2019). Social network sites and acculturation of international sojourners in the Netherlands: The mediating role of psychological alienation and online social support. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 69, 120-130. DOI:

Huang, H. (2016). Examining the beneficial effects of individual's self-disclosure on the social network site. Computers in Human Behavior, 57, 122-132. DOI:

Imai, T., & Imai, A. (2019). Cross-ethnic self-disclosure buffering negative impacts of prejudice on international students' psychological and social well-being. Journal of International Students, 9(1), 66-83. DOI:

Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) (2020). Result of an annual survey of International Students Survey in Japan, 2020

Joshanloo, M. and Jovanović, V., 2019. The relationship between gender and life satisfaction: analysis across demographic groups and global regions. Archives of Women's Mental Health, 23(3), pp.331-338. DOI:

Jourard, S. M. (1971). Self-disclosure: An experimental analysis of the transparent self. John Wiley.

Karsay, K., Schmuck, D., Matthes, J., & Stevic, A. (2019). Longitudinal effects of excessive smartphone use on stress and loneliness: The moderating role of self-disclosure. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 22(11), 706–713. DOI:

Kasahara, M. (2011). The effects of cross-cultural experience on self-disclosure among Japanese female university students. Journal of Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Social Science, 42, 129-146.

Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.

Kloss, J., & Lisman, S. (2002). An exposure-based examination of the effects of written emotional disclosure. British Journal of Health Psychology, 7(1), 31-46. DOI:

Knop, K., Öncü, J., Penzel, J., Abele, T., Brunner, T., Vorderer, P., & Wessler, H. (2016). Offline time is quality time. Comparing within-group self-disclosure in mobile messaging applications and face-to-face interactions. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 1076-1084. DOI:

Ko, H., & Kuo, F. (2009). Can blogging enhance subjective well-being through self-disclosure?. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 12(1), 75-79. DOI:

Kudo, K., & Simkin, K. (2003). Intercultural friendship formation: the case of Japanese students at an Australian university. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 24(2), 91-114. DOI:

Kysnes, B., Hjetland, G. J., Haug, E., Holsen, I., & Skogen, J. C. (2022). The association between sharing something difficult on social media and mental well-being among adolescents. results from the “LifeOnSoMe”-study. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. DOI:

Lee, J., Gillath, O., & Miller, A. (2019). Effects of self-and partner's online disclosure on relationship intimacy and satisfaction. PloS one, 14(3), e0212186. DOI:

Lewandowski, J., Rosenberg, B., Jordan Parks, M., & Siegel, J. (2011). The effect of informal social support: Face-to-face versus computer-mediated communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1806-1814. DOI:

Li, L. M., Chen, Q., Gao, H., Li, W., & Ito, K. (2020). Online/offline self‐disclosure to offline friends and relational outcomes in a diary study: The moderating role of self‐esteem and relational closeness. International Journal of Psychology, 56(1), 129-137. DOI:

Li, L., & Peng, W. (2019). Transitioning through social media: International students’ SNSS use, perceived social support, and acculturative stress. Computers in Human Behavior, 98, 69–79. DOI:

Li, X., Chen, W., & Popiel, P. (2015). What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook? The implications of Facebook interaction for perceived, receiving, and giving social support. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 106-113. DOI:

Luo, M., & Hancock, J. T. (2020). Self-disclosure and social media: Motivations, mechanisms and psychological well-being. Current Opinion in Psychology, 31, 110-115. DOI:

Miller, R., Tomita, Y., Ong, K., Shibanuma, A., & Jimba, M. (2019). Mental well-being of international migrants to Japan: a systematic review. BMJ Open, 9(11), e029988. DOI:

McEwan, B. (2011). Hybrid engagement: How Facebook helps and hinders students’ social integration. Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education, 3-23. DOI:

Nguyen, M., Bin, Y., & Campbell, A. (2012). Comparing online and offline self-disclosure: A systematic review. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(2), 103-111. DOI:

Ng, T., Rochelle, T., Shardlow, S., & Ng, S. (2014). A transnational bicultural place model of cultural selves and psychological citizenship: The case of Chinese immigrants in Britain. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40, 440-450. DOI:

Ozeki, N., Knowles, A., Ushijima, H., & Asada, Y. (2006). Analysis of transcultural stress factors and the mental well-being of foreign Chinese-speaking students in Aomori. Journal of Aomori University of Health and Welfare, 7, 9-16.

Park, N., & Noh, H. (2018). Effects of mobile instant messenger use on acculturative stress among international students in South Korea. Computers in Human Behavior, 82, 34-43. DOI:

Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164-172. DOI:

Rui, J., & Wang, H. (2015). Social network sites and international students’ cross-cultural adaptation. Computers in Human Behavior, 49, 400-411. DOI:

Ruppel, E. K., Gross, C., Stoll, A., Peck, B. S., Allen, M., & Kim, S.-Y. (2016). Reflecting on connecting: Meta-analysis of differences between computer-mediated and face-to-face self-disclosure. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 22(1), 18-34. DOI:

Rogers, V., Griffin, M., Wykle, M., & Fitzpatrick, J. (2009). Internet versus face-to-face therapy: Emotional self-disclosure issues for young adults. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 30(10), 596-602. DOI:

Schartner, A. (2014). ‘You cannot talk with all of the strangers in a pub’: a longitudinal case study of international postgraduate students’ social ties at a British university. Higher Education, 69(2), 225-241. DOI:

Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: Wiley.

Shu, F., Ahmed, S., Pickett, M., Ayman, R., & McAbee, S. (2020). Social support perceptions, network characteristics, and international student adjustment. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 74, 136-148. DOI:

Stiles, W. (1987). “I have to talk to somebody”. Self-Disclosure, 257-282. DOI:

Tambs, K., & Røysamb, E. (2014). Selection of questions to short-form versions of original psychometric instruments in MoBa. Norsk Epidemiologi, 24(1-2). DOI:

Tanaka, T., Takai, J., Kohyama, T., Fujihara, T., & Minami, H. (1994). Social networks of international students in Japan: Perceived social support and relationship satisfaction. The Japanese Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33(3), 213-223. DOI:

Trepte, S., Dienlin, T., & Reinecke, L. (2013). Privacy, self-disclosure, social support, and social network site use. Research report of a three-year panel study. Retrieved from University of Hohenheim website:

Trepte, S., Masur, P., & Scharkow, M. (2017). Mutual friends’ social support and self-disclosure in face-to-face and instant messenger communication. The Journal of Social Psychology, 158(4), 430-445. DOI:

Uchino, B. N. (2004). Social support and physical health: Understanding the health consequences of relationships. Yale University Press. DOI:

Utz, S. (2015). The function of self-disclosure on social network sites: Not only intimate, but also positive and entertaining self-disclosures increase the feeling of connection. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 1-10. DOI:

Valkenburg, P., Schouten, A., & Peter, J. (2005). Adolescents’ identity experiments on the internet. New Media &Amp; Society, 7(3), 383-402. DOI:

Valkenburg, P., Peter, J., & Schouten, A. (2006). Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents' well-being and social self-esteem. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 9(5), 584-590. DOI:

Vitak, J., & Ellison, N. (2012). ‘There’s a network out there you might as well tap’: Exploring the benefits of and barriers to exchanging informational and support-based resources on Facebook. New Media & Society, 15(2), 243-259. DOI:

Walther, J. B., & Parks, M. R. (2002). Cues filtered out, cues filtered in: Computer mediated communication and relationships. Handbook of Interpersonal Communication, 3, 529-563.

Wilson, J., Ward, C., & Fischer, R. (2013). Beyond culture learning theory. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44(6), 900-927. DOI:

Wheeless,L., & Grotz, J.(1976). Conceptualization and measurement of reported self-disclosure. Human Communication Research, 2(4), 338-346. DOI:

Wright, K., Bell, S., Wright, K., & Bell, S. (2003). Health-related support groups on the Internet: Linking empirical findings to social support and computer-mediated communication theory. Journal of Health Psychology, 8(1), 39-54. DOI:

Ye, J. (2006). Traditional and online support networks in the cross-cultural adaptation of Chinese international students in the United States. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(3), 863-876. DOI:

Zhang, R. (2017). The stress-buffering effect of self-disclosure on Facebook: An examination of stressful life events, social support, and mental health among college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 527-537. DOI:

Zhou, E.S. (2014). Social Support. In: Michalos, A.C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Springer, Dordrecht. DOI:

Stewin, E. (2013). An exploration of food security and identity among international students studying in Guelph and Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Unpublished master’s thesis). The University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.



How to Cite

Gao, X., & Takai, J. (2023). Psychosocial effects of self-disclosure among Chinese international students in Japan: Focusing on disclosure media and its targets. Journal of International Students, 14(1).