Culture and relationships

How relationships differ across different cultures.

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  • Created by: Rachel
  • Created on: 04-10-10 10:20

Western and Non-western relationships. (AO1).

Voluntary or non-voluntary relationships: Western societies have geographical and social mobility. This means we meet a large number of people so have greater a 'pool' of potential partners. Non-western cultures have less geographical and social mobility so interactions with strangers are rare. They have a smaller 'pool' of potential partners.

Individual or group based relationships: Moghaddam et al. Western cultures put emphasis on the individual (Individualist) so the rights and freedom of the individual to be happy is fundamentally important. However, in Non-western cultures (Collectivist) members are encouraged to be interdependent rather than independent.

Continuity and discontinuity: Hsu compared Chinese and American cultures. The Chinese highly regard heritage and view change with suspicion. American culture emphasised change (eg Obama) and 'old-fashioned' is viewed with disdain. This is consistent with relationships: Non-western cultures emphasise continuity so relationships are permanent. Western societies emphasise discontinuity so relationships are temporary.

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Western and Non-western relationships continued. (

Norms and rules: Norms are general descriptions of appropriate behaviour within a relationship. An example of these guidelines is the norm of reciprocity which means that for a benefit recieved an equal benefit should be returned. Ting Toomy (1986) found that in individualistic cultures reciprocity is voluntary but in collectivist cultures it is seen as more obligatory. In these cultures failure to return the favour would be a failure of moral duty. The Japanese have specific rules for gift-giving and reciprocating.

Rules: Rules within a relationship may be explicit, such as in a formal marriage, or implicit and difficult to define, such as in a friendship. Cross-cultural research has demonstrated the important role of such relationships rules in different cultures. Argyle et al examined relationship rules in the UK, Italy, Hong Kong and Japan. They found that different rules were relevant to relationships across 4 cultures. All cultures aknowledged the importance relationship rules such as courtesy, respect and avoiiding social intamcy.

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Commentary. (AO2).

Voluntary or non-voluntary relationships: Epstein et al. Divorce rates are low for arranged marriages and around 1/2 of spouses report that they have fallen in love with each other. Myers et al. Studied Indian arranged marriages. No difference was reported in marital satisfaction when compared to US non-arranged marriages. Xiaohe and Whyte found Chinese women who had married for love felt better about their marriages than women in arranged marriages.

Individual or group based relationships: Parents may be better at judging long-term compatibility whereas young people may be blinded by love.

Continuity and permance: The western shift to discontinuity is recent . This shift could be related to greater urbanisation and mobility indicating that the significant factor may not be Individualistic/ Collectivist but urban/ non-urban.

Norms and rules: Argyle et al. This list of rules were formulated in UK. this means they may not have included some rules specific to a culture such as Japan.

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Evaluation. (AO3).

Evolutionary approach: Pinker views romantic love as a 'human universal' that has evolved to promote survival and reproduction among humans. Being in a long-term relationship lowers mortality rates, decreases stress and increases happiness. Jankowaik and Fischer found evidence of romantic love in 90% of 166 non-western tribal societies.

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