Psychology - Relationships

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The influence of culture on romantic relationships

The main difference across culture is the idea of collectivist and individualist, countries such as the US and UK have a lot of emphasis on the individual person and his/her rights. They strive for autonomy focusing on ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ in interpersonal relationships there is a conflict between the goals of the individual and the collective. Individuals expect a ‘profit’ proportional to the effort they invest in a relationship. Whereas countries such as China value ‘we’ more than ‘I’ there are ties between and responsibilities to collective units. This is regarded as more important than the desires of individuals. They are encouraged to be interdependent rather than independent in dealing with others, in collectivist cultures, arranged marriages are more to unite families than individuals. Romantic love tends to be more common in western cultures, and less common in collectivist cultures where family ties are more important. Levine argues that in traditional collectivist cultures such as Thailand (34%) and India (24%) were willing to marry without love, compared to 14% in the US. Therefore in collectivist cultures extended family is the primary importance and romantic love is considered a luxury. 

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The influence of culture on romantic relationships

Relationships vary across cultures, in western societies mate selection is more often than not voluntary, due to high social and geographical mobility. However in collectivist cultures, selecting individuals to be joined as a couple involves family alliances and economic arrangements between families. Qureshi identifies three types of arranged marriage: the planned type where parents plan everything, chaperoned interaction, usually the male tells parents about desires and parents will try and find a match and the joint venture type, where both parents and children are involved in selecting a mate and open dating may be involved. 

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The influence of culture on romantic relationships

Evidence to support culture influence on romantic relationships comes from Goodwin who did a study on Hindu Guajarati couples in Leicester and found that they had considerable choice over marriage, with only 8% being arranged. This suggests that there is a change from their country of origin, India. This is inevitable as they have been acculturated to the western way of life, as they had migrated to the western world, they have an increased social and geographical mobility

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The influence of culture on romantic relationships

Further evidence to support comes from Myers et al who did a questionnaire on marital satisfaction, India and the US they found no difference between them in satisfaction, however they did find cultural differences, where the US found love very important and India didn’t find love very important this supports the idea that there is a cultural difference in how salient love is in a relationship however it doesn’t support the idea of a difference in satisfaction between cultures.

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The influence of culture on romantic relationships

Additional support comes from Johnson and Holmes, they looked at the influence of romantic films on love / relationships, they found that films such as ‘my best friend’s wedding’ influence their ideas of love and relationships resulting in an unrealistic depiction of love, they believed in things such as ‘love at first sight’ and ‘instant commitment’ which were the beliefs portrayed in films. This suggests that people’s views on relationships are influenced by culture including western films, supporting the idea that culture has an influence on romantic relationships.

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The influence of culture on romantic relationships

However there is evidence to refute the idea that culture has an effect on romantic relationships, Li et al compared attitudes towards various types of relationships for people from Canada (individualist) and China and India (collectivist) this produced several findings, there was big differences between collectivist cultures and little differences between collectivist and individualistic, this does not support the idea that culture effects relationships, the split between collectivist and individualist cultures in relationships is useless and means nothing. 

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The influence of culture on romantic relationships

Further evidence to refute the theory comes from Janowick and Fisher who found evidence of romantic love in 90% of non-western cultures from 166 countries. This suggests that romantic love is universal, this could be due to biological factors and the idea that males and females males and females are born with hormones and genes that enable them to love another individual and form romantic relationships with them. Both sexes have to make large investments when it comes to reproduction and therefore finding the correct mate that will enable you to fully support and protect your child is essential in order for the human race to survive. 

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