Psychology A Level AQA

Influence of Culture on Romantic Relationships

AO1 Voluntary or Non- voluntary relationships

One explanation for the influence of culture on romantic relationships refers to voluntary or non-voluntary relationsips. In Western cultures (Individualistic cultures),such as those existing within Britain,  settings in which individuals live in are typically urban areas and densley populated making the interaction between people within society common on a daily basis. Because of high levels of interaction with individuals on a daily basis and geographical mobility of westernised areas this gives people a wider choice of romantic partners allowing those in western cultures freedom of choice in their partner. Whilst in non-western cultures (collectivists cultures)there are fewer urban areas and therefore the interaction between people is limited to a smaller number which rarely occurs between strangers. Relationships in non-western cultures are typically associated to factors such as family and economic resources. Eg. An individual in Asia may marry a family friend based on factors such as their job and the economic resources they can provide.

AO2/3 + Epstein-  Low divorce rates can be associated with non-voluntary relationships where partners fall in love with each other after the intitial marital reasons.

- Oversimplification of relationship types. Western and non-western cultures both have diversity. 

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Individual or group-based relationships

AO1 Individual or group-based relationships

In westernised cultures there is more emphasis on rights and freedom of the individual with happiness and pleasure seen as a fundamental process. In non-westernised cultures decisions are made with the consideration of the group eg. family etc and cultures are encouraged to be interdependent. Romantic relationships in non-westernised cultures are more concerned with the family or group rather than the individual. 


- shift in non-western cultures which are developing such as China which allows a shift from parent mediation with 10% of parent dominated marriages in the 1990s in comparison to 70% in 1949.

+ Gibbons found Mexican students tended to be more interdependent due to their upbringing in a collectivist society rather than Americans who tended to be more independent. However... Students may have been a part of a sub-culture rather than dominant culture affecting validity.

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Importance of love in relationships


Differences between westernised cultures because of freedom of choice compared to non-western cultures.Non-western cultures may may without love if a partner has all other desired features such as economic provision, resources etc and romantic love may be considered a luxury. Levine study states that US respondents were reluctant to marry a partner in the absence of love and collectivist cultured participants prepared to marry in the absence of love.


- Collis and coltrane found  50% of individuals in western cultures married for reasons other than love.

- Myers et al found that love may not be the most important factor in marital satisfaction. Love was less significant a factor in indian marriages however collectivist cultures showed no significant difference to US.

-Media showing US relationships culturally bias and may influence young individuals in the UK.

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Cultural differences in loneliness


Seepersad states young people within the UK and US(westernised cultures) experience a higer degree of lonliness because of higher desire for romantic relationships than those from non-western cultures. The strong emphasis on relationships in western cultures may amplify an indviduals feelings of lonliness. In collectivist cultures such as China social needs are more focused upon families which means there is less chance of feeling lonely without a romantic partner.


- Moghaddam and Gibbons believed that the influence of culture on romantic relationships is culturally bias.  Most research is ethnocentric of westernised values and views and does not take into consideration cultural differences. To overcome this an indigneous researcher should be used.

-Lonliness may not be associated directly with romantic relationships

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Parent-child relationships


Shaver et al devised three systems in which are created during infancy that can relate to relationships we have in adulthood. The first system is the attachment system which is related to Bowlby's internal working model in which is promoted by the primary caregiver and influences our attachment style. The attachment style promoted by the caregiver devises an internal working model in which makes an individual have similar expectations of relationships in later life. For example depending on an individual, comfort etc. The next system is the caregiving system in which behaviour of the attachment figure influences the behaviour of caring for an individual. A third system is the sexuality system in which avoidant individuals may find it pleasurable to engage in sex without love. 

AO2/3   - Relationship breakups associated with a shift in secure to insecure attachment type suggesting attachment style may change.

- gender differences are not outlined. Making it deterministic for both genders

- Nature is not considered- behaviour may be affected by hormones rather than nuture.

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Effects of childhood abuse

AO1  Physical abuse within childhood is likely to affect the way in which we form adult relationships. Individuals who have been abused may experience depression, anxiety or anger more than others which may lead to inability to trust others and distancing.


+ Berneson and Anderson found that adult women who had been abused displayed negative reactions towards others such as expectation of rejection but only with people who reminded them of their abusive parent. 

- Gender bias research is mostly in females

+ Attachment disorder explanation

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Childhood friendships


Qualter and Munn children may aquire knowledge upon relationships through interaction with other children. Self-effacy is determined by the way we are treated and viewed by others and personal experiences in which become internalised these values can be applied in furture life.  Nangle Children's friendships are believed to be training grounds teaching affection, a sense of allience and intimacy.


- Gender differences. Richard Schneider found females have more intimate friendships than boys. Erwin found that boys had more competitive friendships.

+ Sulivian HS et al found that the success of friendships in childhood influence the success of relationship formations.

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Adolescent relationships


In later childhood attachment shifts from parents to peers. Adolescents may become involved in relationships to help achieve seperation from parents in an attempt to redirect interpersnal energy to the romantic partner. Physical and emotional intimacy can be developed which differs from that of parents. Madsen states that moderate or low dating in adolscent produced higher quality relationships in adulthood compared to those with higher number of partners in adolescence. 


- negative affects associated with adolescent relationships including academic failure

- Roisman found no effect on romantic experiences age 20 on romantic relationships aged 30 suggesting there is no consistent evidence that adolsecent relationships are building blocks of adult relationships.

- Culturally bias- may be differences in culture, focused mostly on those in western cultures who may be more open about relationships or participate in higher romantic activity at early age.

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Maternal investment


Females have faw fewer gametes which means investment is higher and reproductive success is important therefore woman are more critical of romantic partners who possess good qualities. Females invest more because of parent certainity and commitment required whilst males invest the minimum of gametes. The prolonged period of immaturity in infants means females will have to invest for a longer period of time. Breast feeding can last up to two or three years in some cultures. 


+ extramarital affairs- Baker and Bellis found 14% of population were products of extramartial affairs. High resources provided by partner however higher chance of good genes in extramarital affairs.

-  females may be just as promiscous as males- gender bias

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Paternal investment


Paternal investment can be significantly lower due to the minimum requirments and uncertainity in parental investment. Man can father a potentially unlimited number which means they do not have to place all their time into one child and they do not have to carry out tasks such as breast feeding. Males can walk away without investment. Males are worried about cuckoldry and may develop sexual jealously as a response to this to reduce diversion of males when sexual infedelity is suspected.


Female grandparents and maternal grandparents place more investment into grandchildren because of parental certainty (Michalski and Shackleford)

- Anderson found that biological fathers and step-fathers did not discriminate in investment of children even when they were not their own. However this may be due to showing the female the investment for future biological children

- males are not always promiscous 

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Reasons for Breakdown

AO1 Lack of skills, stimulation and maintenance difficulties. Long distances cause problems because of inability to communicate which becomes overwhelming. Skills such as lack of communication leads to lack of reward. Stimulation leads to boredom and infedility.


Boekhut extramarital affairs may occur when there is a lack of stimulation. Males generally have sexual reasons females have emotional reasons.

- Holt and Stone no differences in long distance relationships. Advance in technology increases communication

+ couples coping enhancment training can help deal with lack of skills, leading to higher marital success

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Model of breakdown


Breakdown (problem internally identified) Intrapsychic process (brooding on rewards and costs) Dyadic process (discussion about relationship) Social process (involvement of others) Grave dressing process (moving on) Resurrection process (reflection)


+ Tashiro and Frazier found undergraduates who had recently broken up with romantic partner experienced distress then personal growth providing evidence of grave-dressing and resurrection process.

+ Can be intervened- social process 

- Ethical issues- psychological harm, over estimating the difficulty of relationships

- Nature is not considered

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Inter and Intra-sexual selection


Intrasexual selection- Members of one sex competing against each other for access to member of oppostive sex. Victors pass on genes and have higher reproductive success.

Intersexual selection- Preferences of one sex for members of opposite sex who possess qualities. eg. tall males leads to higher population of tall males in future. Traits are passed onto offspring therefore selection must be careful.


+ logical explanation, higher chance of survival because of genetic quality 

-  individual differences, personality factors etc. 

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Short-term- men more likely to have one night stands so that offspring number can be maximised, less investment or time- men may lower standards temporily. Females choosy because of fewer gametes and carrying period.

Long-term- heavy investment from both parents and choosiness. Females choose males who are able to invest in children, are protective and can minimise costs such as being intelligent, having good genes etc. Males more attracted to younger females who represent fertility and reproductive value.

AO2/3  - does not explain why females engage in casual sex

-Kenrick et al found that teenage males are most attracted to females who are five years older than them and therefore less fertile

+ A british man fathered 600 children at fertility clinic

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Social exchange theory

AO1 Tribaut and Kelley- profit and loss theory. Maximise costs, minimise rewards. Rewards minus costs equal the outcome of a profit or loss. Compariosn level is devised in which our relationships are compared to others in terms of costs and profits, if our profit exceeds this helps to maintain relationship a loss can lead to breakdown.

AO2/3  + used to explain why females may stay in abusive relationships where rewards of resources outweight costs and alternatives.

- Social exchange theory does not explain why relationships breakdown without alternative

- Reflective of individualistic cultures

- Feeney found lack of modern application of theory

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Equity Theory


Equity theory identifies that all behaviour is a series of exchanges which attempt to maxamise rewards and minimise costs. People try to achieve fairness in relationships, inequity can cause distress and a lower level of satisfaction. Ratio of inputs and outputs do no necessarily mean equal contribution but it is a subjective opinion of contribution. 


- Clark and Mills found change in communal relationships and exchange relationships. Exchange relationships focused more on rewards and costs. Communal more focused on desire. 

- cultural bias- greater desire of meeting needs of partner

+ Christensen- behavioural therapy worked for two thirds of 60 distressed couples where postive exhcange reinforced.

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Reward/need satisfaction theory


Byrne and Clore-  Through operant condiitioning we may become positvely reinforced when positive stimulus is given. Association may occur through classical conditioning eg. good mood and event association


+ May and Hamilton- woman rated men higher when listening to pleasant music- classical conditioning. However lacks ecological validity as not real life situation, lacks internal validity as only photos were used measuring attractiveness.

- Ignores nature influencing formation

- Lott found in many culture woman like to meet needs of men rather than be rewarded.

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Byrne, Clore and Smeaton. More attracted to individuals with similar personality and attitudes to us. Sort partners initally for disimilarity rather than similarity so that we can avoid these. Attitude alignment may occur so that views become more similar. 

- Singh and Tan (singapore) and Drigotas (USA) - individuals first attracted to similarity of attitudes first then more likely to be less attracted after discovering dissimilarities. 

- Yoshida pointed out this only represents a narrow view of relationship formation with factors such as self-concept, economic level and physical condition being important. Speakmen et al found that we choose partners with similar levels of body fat.

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Group Display Sports


One explanation of group displays of agression as an adaptive response relates to xenophobia- the fear of the unknown relating often to strangers and new situations. Wilson provides xenophobia as an adaptive response in which has been favoured by natural selection so that humans and other animals become altruistic of members of their own group and intolerant of out-groups which pose threat to safety and resources. Xenophobia can be displayed within group displays in sport such as within football crowds in which offensive gestures, signs and language are often used to itimidate the opposing crowd. For example Podaliri and Balestri found that facist displays to the opposing team were an expression of political views in which the Lazio fans witheld.Xenophobia would be a favourable mechanism as it would help to diminish the chances of an attack allowing reproductive success and stabilising resources. 


Foldesi found racist conduct of a core of extremist supporters (Hungarian crowds) led to an increase of spectators violence. Jewish, Russian and traveller people were usually targeted

+ Real world application- Show racism the red card is motivated from influence

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Group Display Sports 2


Territoriality is another explanation based upon the protective response to an invasion of territory and is characteristic of many animals including humans, lions and apes. Territorial threats are shown to outsiders to intimidate outsiders. This adaptive response can be seen within sports teams such as within rugby and football and can lead to aggressive response of the home team and it's supporting crowd. For example the Hacka routine is used by New Zealand's rugby team before matches to intimidate the opposing team. Neave and Wolfson found that home team players were more likely to win football matches due to a surge of tesosterone before a match believed to have derived as an aggressive response to defend home territory.


Lewis found there was a 'home advantage' when crowds were supporting and acted as a distraction for opponents.

- does not take into consideration the fact home teams lose.

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Group Displays Warfare


Women are likely to find males who are victorious within warfare as attractive, passing on their quality genes to their offspring therefore aggression in warfare is seen beneficial for sexual selection.Displays of aggression in warfare allows respect to be given between soldiers and a sturdy relationship to be built. Those who are cowards lose respect and therefore they are less likely to share benefits associated with the status of the group.


+ Palmer and Tiley found that male gang members have more sexual partners than ordinary males. Van Vught also found higher sex appeal in soldiers when they have shown bravery in combat

- Gender bias- fail to explain why woman get involved in warfare without gains such as reproductive success as this is more costly for females. Dahomey Amazons are a group of all female army who conquered parts of Africa in 17th century.

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Group Displays Warfare 2


Costs of permament scars and amputations act as a sign of commitment to the group so that they can benefit from profits associated. This creates a bond which is suitable to diminish the chances of being killed.


aggression in group displays due to deindividuation

- fails to explain levels of cruelty found in humans when opponent no longer poses threat that does not exist in other animals

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Jealousy Aggression


Daly and Wilson state that man evolved different stratergies to deter female partners from commiting adultery which may include violence. Men are often uncertain that they are the true fathers of their offspring unlike women and therefore males are always at the risk of cuckoldry- where a male uses his resources on an investment which is not his own. Sexual jealousy is therefore beneficial. Buss said that males evolve mate retention strategies often in the form of violence to help maintain a mate. Sexual jealousy may lead to extreme violence. 


+ Lalumiere et al (2005): to decrease paternity uncertainty, men have been found to **** partners.

+ Thornhill et al (1992): woman resisting sex with partner signals that they are sexually unfaithful which increases the male’s sexual jealousy and fear of cuckoldry, therefore making them more aggressive.

- Gender bias- females are aggressive also

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As a consequence or because of suspicion of infedility sexual coercion may be a result.Usually to do with the chance of cuckoldry.  Males may violent to women who are pregnant due to infedility due to risk of resources and attempt to terminate the pregnancy. Sexual coercion may lead to extreme violence and uxorcide where the costs of infidelity outweighs the benefits.


+Shackelford (2006): men who sexually coerced their partners thought the partner was being unfaithful (and the partner actually was) Camilleri-  the risk of infidelity predicts sexual coercion among males but not females.

+ Real world application- Pipet (Thailand man) killed wife in jealousy after discovering she met with former partner

- mostly gender bias- Felson found females were twice as likely to murder out of jealousy as men. Maria Savez attempted to murder her lover with a axe after finding him in bed with another woman

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Twin and Adoption studies


monozygotic twins share 100% of genes, compare to dizygotic twins who share 50%. If both MZ twins be agressive there is greater chance it is genetically inherited. Adoption studies can assess if aggression is due to gene environment interaction. Biological parents and children with agressive tendencies suggest inheritence, adoptive parents and children with aggression suggest environment interaction.


+McGuffin and Gottesman (1985): aggression in twins concordance rates i.e. where one twin is aggressive what is the % chance of the other twin also being aggressive: 87% concordance rate – monozygotic twins (identical twins) 72% concordance rate – dizygotic twins (non-identical twins) 

+ Hutchings and Mednick (1973): 14,000 adoptions. Biological father with convictions for criminal violence positively correlated with convictions for criminal violence in sons who were adopted by another family.-

-MZ twins share environment where they are treated more similarly than DZ twins. The studies do not perfectly measure genes vs. environment.

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