Crying as Communication in Domestic Helper Narratives: Towards a Social Psychology of Crying in Discourse

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Most research on adult crying is based on questionnaires or laboratory studies, and few studies have looked at crying in discourse. This article reports on a study of life stories of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong. The stories, which were recorded in a church shelter, are trauma narratives characterised by repeated crying. The article provides first, an overview of the themes that led the women to cry in the 89 crying events that were identified, and second, a discourse analysis of six selected excerpts. The analyses suggest that crying events should be seen as discursive accomplishments among group members. The article also provides evidence of a link between crying and catharsis, and it questions the common assumption that crying is a desirable form of emotional expression. Finally, the article discusses some possible functions of crying and proposes the first step towards a social psychological theory of crying in discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-605
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • crying and catharsis
  • discourse analysis
  • foreign domestic helpers
  • social psychology of crying
  • theories of crying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language

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