Explain the role that culture plays in the formation and maintenance of relationships
Formation of relationships
- Individualist cultures assume that the free choice of a spouse is based on romantic love but they may in reality be “arranged” by social position, religion, wealth, opportunities, and class.
Moghaddam et al (1993) argues that interpersonal relationships:
- in Western cultures tend to be individualistic, voluntary, and temporary
- in non-Western cultures tend to be collectivist, involuntary, and permanent.
In collectivist cultures, social networks motivate marriages. Families play an active and often decisive role in choosing marriage partners for the young. Love is supposed to be discovered after marriage. In many parts of the world, arranged marriages are still the norm although modifications are now seen in some cultures.
Study to use: Buss et al. (1990)
Maintenance of relationships
- A large proportion of marriages in the Western world end in divorce (in some countries up to 50% of marriages). In some cultures, divorce is non-existent or rare (e.g. in China.)
- Arranged marriages usually last longer than romantic marriages (Fiske, 2004). Marriage in traditional societies is a contract between families and often involves economic and social engagements that create powerful bonds between the families and makes divorce impossible. This could be a reason for stability of marriages.
Are arranged marriages happier?
- Gupta and Singh (1982) interviewed 50 Indian couples who had married for love or lived in an arranged marriage. The couples who married for love reported diminished feelings of love after a few years of marriage. Those who lived in arranged marriages reported higher levels of love.
- Yelsma and Athappilly (1988) compared 28 Indian couples in arranged marriages, 25 Indian couples in love marriages, and 31 American couples. Individuals in arranged marriages scored higher on marital satisfaction compared to the couples in love marriages.
In spite of the focus on love in relationships in the West, there is general agreement among psychologists that a relationship that survives over time is one in which the partners adapt and change with respect to what they expect of each other. Love that involves friendship, caring, respect, and mutual sharing of experiences could result in the powerful bonding of lasting relationships as in the ideal of the Western “love marriage”.