Relationships and cultures

A look how relationships are different in different cultures

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Western and non-western relationships


  • In western cultures we tend to meet lots of people (acquaintances), to widen our choice of a partner.
  • See love as important in deciding who to marry.
  • Can change partner's if we want, many relationships are expected to breakdown
  • Freedom to choose who to a partner

Non-western (many, not all)

  • Less likely to meet strangers, therefore less choice
  • Belief that love grows and develop during marriage
  • Marriage seen as everlasting
  • Marriages are arranged, based on social status
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Voluntary/non voluntary (AO2/AO3)

In societies with less mobility, arranged marriages are used. Divorce is significantly lower compared to those that are not arranged. In half of these arranged marriages, there have been reports of falling in love (Epstein 2002).

Arranged marriages are becoming more common in the west as well. Many people are introduced to each other by friends, as there is a increase in the use of dating agencies. These people usually have similar personalities and interests. 

There is also a increase in marriages due to things like social background in the west. Collins and Cotrane (1995) found that 50% of marriages in the USA were not due to love. 

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Attitudes to romantic love (AO2/AO3)

Urbanization has helped increased the 'Hollywood style' romance. The media has given lots of expectations of what relationships are like. This has happened in both western and non-western cultures. So even though the people in collectivist societies can't choose their partners, the 'Hollywood style' relationships tells them that they should marry someone for love, not because they're been told to. 

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Individual or group based relationships (AO2/AO3)

Collectivist societies have all relationships in a group, not just romantic relationships. 

In western cultures, as urbanization grows, society becomes more individualized. 

Adar (2002) found that Kibbutz families in Israel have gone from extended families, made of 3 or 4 generations to just children and one parent. This shows that collectivist cultures are becoming more individualized. 

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Continuity and discontinuity (AO2/AO3)

Non western cultures have become more and more discontinuous and relationships break down more frequently. 50 years ago divorce was rare in the west, but that quickly changed, now it's common. This may have been due to urbanization. As the non western cultures develop, they too may start to accept divorce more and more, and change their cultures.

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