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What is the debate?

It is questionable whether cultural influences romantic relationships.

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Outline the influence of culture

Suggesting the influence of culture is voluntary and involuntary relationships, in western cultures voluntary marriages are the norm, it is the expectation for couples to date, fall in love and decide to marry, with or without parental consent. However is non-western cultures involuntary (arranged) marriages are more common, couples are often partnered by their parents for economic or social reasons to gain advantages of some kind. This may be due to non-western- collectivist cultures (China/India) focusing more on the needs of the groups. People are concerned with needs of collective groups; such as family, village or community. Whereas Western cultures (UK or USA) as focused on the needs of the individual. People are concerned with their own needs and benefits, and are less concerned with the needs of the group. Western cultures have relatively impermanent relationships, as shown by higher divorce rates, where it is more acceptable to move between numerous, relatively short-term monogamous relationships. However, Non-western marriages are more permanent, shown y their lower divorce rates, where lasting monogamous relationships are more likely- this may be due to the involuntary start, leading to an involuntary end.

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What did DePaulo and Morris find?

Convincing for the influence of culture on romantic relationships comes from DePaulo and Morris, who found that 55% of American marriages end in divorce, compared to 1% in India. This shows that non-western cultures value permanence in their relationships compared to the relative impermanence of western relationships. This also provides evidence for the role of involuntary relationships in non-western marriages, which are more difficult to breakdown.

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What did LeVine find? add AO3

Furthermore, strong evidence for the influence of culture comes from LeVine, who found that 49% of Indian Participants said they would be happy to marry someone with whom they were not in love, compared with 3.5% of North Americans. This shows that non-western cultures are happy with involuntary marriages that meet the family economic needs and those in western cultures value love in voluntary relationships. This also provides evidence for collectivist cultures being concerned with the needs of the family/village/community. Undermining the influence of culture this study can be criticised for evaluation apprehension; where participants become concerned that their behaviour may be judged by the experimenter, possibly causing a change in natural behaviour. This is because due to social norms indicating that in North America you should be in love before you marry and therefore the percentage of people saying they wouldn’t marry without love would be higher where the opposite will occur in India. This study can also be criticied for low external validity- leading to low population validity; where the results cannot be generalised to a wider population, this is because LeVine only questioned one western and one non-western culture, so therefore it cannot be generalised to the cultures directly as each country may differ.

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What did Udry find?

Similarly, compelling evidence also comes from Udry, who found that western cultures based on romantic love, whereas non-western participants reported that relationships were based on needs and expectations of the family. This shows that non-western cultures value the needs of family/village/community as they are collectivist. This also shows the role of involuntary relationships in non-western marriages who are partnered by their parents for economic or social reasons.

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Outline the contradiction to culture?

It is widely believed amongst participants that non-western marriages are unloving and that western style marriages are the most successful. However the is research to suggest that non-western relationships may in fact be more successful, and that the western style of marriage may not be as free as we would like to believe. 

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Support for the influence of culture

Supporting the influence of culture, as well as the difference in divorce rates, already discussed, there are other reasons why Non-western relationships may be more successful that in perceived in the West. For example, Gupta and Singh found that couples who married for love reported reduced feeling of love after 5 years, but that those who were in arranged marriages reported increased love after this time. Explaining this, DePaulo and Morris argue that Western marriages cause greater disappointment due to the difficulties in achieving the romanticised ideal of love, in which a partner is expected to fulfil unrealistic range of roles (lover, friend, companion, soul mate). As these expectations are impossible to meer, western relationships are more likely to breakdown.

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Criticism for the influence of culture

However, undermining the influence of culture, Duck has successfully argued that western relationships may not be as free as we would like to  think. Indeed, he argues that western marriages are actually involuntary, as our choice in partner is 'arranged by religion, social position, wealth, class, opportunity, and a range of other things over which we have little control'. Therefore western people are most likely to marry someone from a similar background, our perception of freedom is actually limited. Duck continues this argument by suggesting that our freedom in a relationship is lost over time, as breaking down a relationships is associated with a great deal of social and legal baggage, making it difficult to fully exercise our freedom.

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What is a weakness of culture?

As a result of the clear difference in culture, many of the theories used to explain romantic relationships can be criticised for being Eurocentric, because they were developed in Europe or North America to explain western relationships and cannot be used cross culturally. For example economic theories used to explain maintenance of relationships, cannot be used in non-western cultures because they are concerned with the individuals costs and benefits, which is incompatible with collectivism.

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What is the conclusion?

 Therefore it is clear that culture has a significant influence on romantic relationships.

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