Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Consumer Science

First Advisor

Lalatendu Acharya

Committee Member 1

Erina L. MacGeorge

Committee Member 2

Meghan E. Norris

Committee Member 3

Thomas J. Templin


Depression and associated mental health problems are increasingly a critical health issue for Chinese international students in the U.S. (Lyubomirsky, Kasri, & Zehm, 2003; Cheung, 2011; Liu, 2009). Recent studies in different U.S. universities found a 32% to 47% rate for depression symptoms among Chinese international students (Cheung, 2011; Wei et al., 2007). The statistics suggest that Chinese students face a high prevalence of depression problems (Han et al., 2013). To address the depression problems, family communication provides substantial support for Chinese students (Liu, 2009). However, little is known about family communicative practices of this population (Wei et al., 2010). Extant studies and reviews show that there is a strong need to study depression and family communication in Chinese international students to better respond to their needs (Xing et al., 2010).

This research aimed to explore the meanings of depression and parental communication practices in Chinese international students in the U.S., and find recommendations for developing family communication interventions that address depression. The participants were recruited through convenient sampling and purposive sampling method in the Chinese communities at Purdue. The data was collected by interviews and focus groups, and further transcribed and translated from Chinese into English. The software NVivo 10 was used to support data analysis, and grounded theory method was employed (Glasser & Strauss, 1967).

Thematic analysis of the data developed the following themes: (1) meanings of depression: psychological, physiological and social disorder, (2) selective depression communication with parents, (3) positive and negative feedback of parents influence depression communication, (4) different communication styles of mothers and fathers, (5) childhood experiences influence depression communicative practices, (6) interdependence and conflicting expectations restrain depression communication. This study of depression communication contributes to the large field of emotion communication within the family, providing implications into family training programs, health professional practice, and university administration to better understand the needs of Chinese international students, and offer effective support to cope with depression.