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How Relationships Differ in Cultures

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By ashleighj98
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Discuss the extent to which relationships have been shown to differ in different cultures (24m)
Relationships are a universal thing but differ depending on the different types of cultures in which they occur. Individualistic cultures value self-autonomy, leadership and self-fulfilment; more attention is paid to the individual’s attitudes and preferences than to group norms, examples of individualistic cultures include Western Europe, Australia and America. Conversely, members of collectivist cultures define themselves as interdependent and value group harmony, duty, obligation and security. In this type of culture more attention is paid to group norms rather than to an individual’s attitudes and behaviour, examples of collectivist cultures include China, Pakistan and India. As collectivist cultures are more focused on group gain than individual gain, family approval of the relationship would be a key determining factor in the relationship, for this reason marriages are usually arranged by family members and are non-voluntary. Also, in cases where the individual is not happy in the relationship, it may continue despite this as the relationship is more beneficial to the group - for this reason divorce may be difficult or impossible due to this pressure from the group. Whereas, individualistic cultures are more accepting and encouraging in allowing people to freely and voluntarily choose their partner on the basis of love and attraction as the individual’s happiness and pleasure is seen as being fundamentally important. If the costs of the relationship outweigh the rewards, it is possible to end the relationship without the social stigma experienced in collectivist cultures.
Gupta and Singh conducted a study in India which found that out of the 100 professionals questioned, 50% had married for love and the other 50% were arranged marriages. It was found that love marriage couples scored higher levels on Rubikin’s ‘Liking and Loving’ scale but they declined rapidly over the first ten years. On the other hand, arranged marriages started with lower levels of liking and love but these increased after 10 years – so on the whole arranged marriage couples liked and loved their partners more than the couples that had chosen their partners. Yelsma and Athapilly supported this by arguing that the success of arranged marriages comes from the careful selection and matching of partners for education and social background. However, cohabitation before marriage may have been acceptable in for the love-marriage couples, thus on the whole they may have been together longer than the initial ten years of marriage which the arranged marriage couples are experiencing, so irritability and boredom with partners may be an explanation for Gupta and Singh’s findings. Also, even though the study was conducted in India, there are many different types of collectivist cultures and so results cannot be generalised to all collectivist cultures.
Xiaohe and Whyte conducted a similar study to that of Gupta and Singh in China; they found that women who had chosen their own partners reported high levels of happiness, suggesting that Western ideas of free choice are becoming absorbed into collectivists cultures and altering traditional attitudes and practices. This study contradicts that of Gupta and Singh’s by saying that freedom of mate choice promotes marital satisfaction and stability rather than the opposite. This suggests that Western ideas of freedom of choice in partners are now becoming absorbed into collectivist cultures and altering attitudes and practices.
Zaida and Shurayadi study of Pakistani Muslim women in Canada found that most of them didn't like the idea of arranged marriages and would prefer to choose their own partner. They had internalised the views of Western culture – in contrast, their families who had been brought up in Pakistan were against this idea of choosing your own partner and friction between the values of the two cultures is experienced. This study clearly demonstrated how culture can have an influence on relationships. It shows that people who live in individualistic cultures but originate from collectivist cultures prefer the idea of voluntary relationships whilst those living in collectivists cultures preferred non-voluntary relationships.

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