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Personal Relationships across Cultures

One day, as his small group was being driven from the office to an off-site meeting, their silver Audi A7 passed in front of the headquarters of Novartis, an unusual and beautiful glass architecture. He is a second-year architecture student and loves modern glass and metal buildings. They ended up talking about their children for the rest of the minute ride, and from then on, Pablo felt that he finally got to know dirk and felt a lot more comfortable moving forward. While many things are cultural, how we dress, eat, and build a relationship, others, like our love for our children, are universal.

Pablo accidentally found a common thread, their children, and laid the foundation for building a bridge between two people who came from significantly different cultures. Some things transcend cultures. People in relationship-based cultures naturally look for these commonalities since they place great importance on getting to know you personally.

For task-based cultures, this skill may not come naturally, but there are clues for those who know to look for them. Find that point, however small, that unites you and let that be the foundation to a great friendship or business relationship. Do you have a story of a time when you found it hard to connect with someone? What happened? Lewis This wise quote is not only true for friendship but any relationship, including in business and at work. A new encounter? Task or Relationship orientation? A Brazilian in Switzerland When Pablo, a lanky pharma executive from Brazil went to Switzerland to discuss a possible partnership with a Basel based pharmaceutical giant, he felt that his negotiating partners were hard to read and distant.

Unfortunately, the range of social relationships which should therefore be separately studied is rarely assessed in individualism-collectivism measures although see Matsumoto et al. Often the concepts used are very loosely defined, and as a consequence it is hard to be sure that they mean the same in each cultural sample and to control for confounding variables Fijneman et al.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, problems with the statistical reliability of the measures of individualism-collectivism are widespread, with the most widely used measures of individualismcollectivism being low in internal reliability i. Most of the cultural dimensions discussed reflect central tendencies in cultural values, rather than the scores of individuals within those cultures.

As a result, data has been analysed on a cultural level, with scores being the average for those cultures. There is considerable room for individual variation, particularly given the selective samples from which the data is usually derived Cha, ; Hofstede, b. Because of within-cultural variations, Triandis et al. Markus and Kitayama similarly talk of the independent self and the interdependent self to reflect these cultural dimensions, while Kagitcibasi refers to separateness versus relatedness of self.

Unfortunately, these individual-level concepts, most appropriate for measuring individuals, have as yet only been occasionally applied to the study of personal relationships. Finally, expressed cultural values are not necessarily the same as behaviours Han and Choe, Thus, while people may have become more individualistic in their attitudes in many collectivist societies, most people in these societies, even if idiocentric in their individual attitudes, show behaviours that comply with the norms. Much of the work that uses cultural dimensions must be firmly located within the confines of the values tested and the samples used.

For obvious reasons of practicality, most of the data collected in the large-scale studies discussed above has been collected primarily from middle-class professional employees Hofstede and Trompenaars or students and teachers Chinese Culture Connection and Schwartz. Indeed, the very meaning and actual practice of doing the same jobs in different countries may be quite different.

Relatively little data has been gathered in Africa or in Communist societies, despite the apparently unique clustering of values of the latter societies Bardi and Schwartz, ; Smith et al. There is also evidence of important cultural changes in values since the collection of the most influential data set, that of Hofstede. Using new scales, Fernandez et al. During this period, they argue, Japan has become less uncertainty avoidance oriented, Mexico has become more individually oriented, and Germany and the US have become more feminine.

This alerts 36 Relationships in a cultural setting us to the importance of attending carefully to the groups sampled and the date of the study when considering cross-cultural variations in personal relationships. Finally, writing from Turkey, Kagitcibasi also notes how the concept of individualism-collectivism is value-laden Kagitcibasi, , , with collectivism in particular suggesting a blind conformity to the group and lack of individuation. Kagitcibasi goes on to remark that the assumed movement from collectivism towards individualism is similar to earlier debates about modernisation which made little progress.

Instead, it is probably more accurate to see certain aspects of individualism-collectivism as changing as a result of changing lifestyles such as group memberships , but at the same time to recognise that the way in which an individual relates to these groups may stay the same. We discuss this in more detail in the final section of this chapter and again in Chapter 6. Ecological explanations of behaviour For some, broad patterns in social behaviour may be attributed less to variations along cultural dimensions and more to socio-cultural or physical environmental influences, with differences in behavioural repertoires a direct function of such differences Fijneman et al.

Theorists interested in an ecological perspective, such as John Berry e. Berry, , are interested in how factors such as climate and socio-political factors affect our behaviours. They are particularly concerned with the natural conditions affecting food production, and the implications this has for societal functioning. From this perspective, ecological forces are the main shapers of culture and behaviour, constraining, pressurising and nurturing cultural norms which in turn shape behaviour.

Influences on individual development are both direct from the ecological surroundings, and indirect mediated by culture and biology. Humans are seen as adapting to their ecological contexts, with individual psychological characteristics developing out of these contexts Segall et al. Most complex behaviours, and the cultural recipes for them, are selected for their adaptive character and transmitted intergenerationally through the socialisation of the young Segall et al.

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This work has been particularly influential in explaining adaptations in family patterns Lee, Historically, the extended family has tended to coincide with agricultural economies as agriculture requires large numbers of people for it to be maximally efficient. Agriculture offers the advantage Relationships in a cultural setting 37 to the younger generation of inherited property, which can provide an important source of future income. In contrast, hunter-gatherer societies, and more recently industrial societies, require mobility and promote nuclear family formations.

Furthermore, in industrial societies the greater premium on individual achievement may weaken the traditional authority structures associated with the extended family Lee, This should not mean that we should reject any regularities in personal relationships Jahoda, , but it does alert us to simplistic statements about universal processes and makes us challenge why particular behaviours and attitudes have evolved. In a more complex analysis of socialisation and educational values, Tudge et al. Tudge and his colleagues show that education and social class are important in the way in which parents encourage self-direction in a child.

At the same time, physical conditions dictate variability in this process, as his analysis of four very different environments demonstrates this work was conducted in Russia, Estonia, South Korea and the United States. Furthermore, different children interpret the cultural messages being provided by both their society and their parents in a different manner, transforming the message themselves in subtle and novel ways.

The ecological perspective offers a powerful approach to understanding many aspects of relationships across the world. It also provides an important challenge to researchers to develop theories for the evolution of cultural values, and raises important questions about the ways in which cultural values may change.

However, as is the case with 38 Relationships in a cultural setting broad biological theories of evolution, there have been few examinations of directly testable hypotheses from an ecological viewpoint, and thus little opportunity to directly define what is, and is not, adaptive behaviour in the personal relationship field. Personal relationships in a changing world There can be little doubt that the last four decades have seen huge demographic changes across the world. The s witnessed a great movement of peoples from isolated and tradition-oriented societies to urban areas, and the period since then has witnessed large-scale ecological change e.

The lifestyle impact of these changes has undoubtedly been profound Stanton, Stanton uses the example of the inhabitants of Polynesia over the last four decades to underline this point. In , only a handful of Polynesians had ever left their home villages. This has had a dramatic impact on the family living arrangements of these islanders, the nature of the work pursued by these migrants, and the languages spoken—and values adopted—by the new generations.

One constant theme of this book is an emphasis on social change, and in particular the way in which large-scale changes in societies may influence the ways in which people relate to one other. I then discuss the way in which attitudes about relationships and appropriate relationship behaviour may be transmitted between groups and across generations. Finally, I consider the way in which a change in cultural locality may influence the relationships of acculturating individuals and groups.

Although modernisation can be seen as operating at both the national or the regional Relationships in a cultural setting 39 levels and the more individual level, it is usually discussed in relation to the national level. Modernisation is associated with a number of inter-related variables, including the movement of large populations from the town to the country, industrialisation, the development of mass communications, a widening of political involvement and the introduction of formal education Segall et al.

Yang, , In some areas, such as parts of Africa, the concept if not the reality of modernisation also includes an increase in water supplies, health improvements, and the development of a cash economy Super and Harkness, Some of the characteristics associated with modernisation seem highly admirable examples include an openness to change, tolerance and respect of others, egalitarian family role structure e.

Inkeles, Other effects of modernisation are arguably far less positive. According to Parsons and Goode , the modernisation of socio-professional structures is destructive of the traditional type of family. Others have pointed to the alienation and anomie associated with modernisation, as a range of friendships and work relationships are undermined Rosenberger, a; Yang, , Modernisation often presents individuals and families with critical choices which may have longterm impacts. Super and Harkness , in their analysis of Kenyan families, claim that the choices made by members of one generation with regard to agricultural methods, schooling and marital relations can have a dramatic impact on the development of future generations.

Such concepts of modernisation, however, have recently attracted much criticism. Some have simply argued that there has in fact been little systematic convergence of values across the globe Hofstede, b. The assumption that modernisation and individualism follow industrialisation see, for example, the link between individualism and Gross National Product noted by Hofstede, can also be challenged by historical data, notably from Britain where the nuclear family long preceded industrialisation Kagitcibasi, ; Wagels and Roemhild, Many commentators have noted that modernisation is not a uniform phenomenon but has a number of different components e.

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Yang, , with people who are going through a process of modernisation also retaining many of their traditional beliefs Lee, ; Yang, Here the objections frequently mirror those levelled at a simple individualismcollectivism divide, discussed above. Although there has been rapid industrialisation and urbanisation in these countries, there is little evidence of the decline in personal relatedness between individuals in these societies. Indeed, it is the very collectivistinterdependent family pattern that has helped stimulate successes in the workplace Kagitcibasi, Relationships in a cultural setting 41 Overall, the notion that human history is moving towards a simple point of progress can be seen as highly problematic Wagels and Roemhild, However, the individual parties concerned seemed able to maintain two apparently opposing orientations: on the one hand, they embraced modernisation, learning the new skills necessary to ensure the farm survived; and on the other hand they maintained traditions such as the communal sharing of income from any work outside the farm as well as important family rituals such as the common midday meal.

Thus the older patriarchal and authoritarian family format disappeared but was replaced by a strong core family, apparently well suited to modern agricultural demands. The transmission of ideas: the theory of social representations How do cultural values spread within a society? Furthermore, as noted above, linking concepts such as liberalism with the growth of individualism Kim et al.

Every society is full of artefacts and norms or rules that help maintain and bolster cultural values Kitayama, These ideas become shared among members of a society who take them for granted. These social representations are created and shaped by individuals through everyday interactions and conversations. They can be seen as the contents of everyday thinking, the stock of ideas that gives coherence to our beliefs, guiding or misguiding perceptions and providing a backdrop for social exchange 42 Relationships in a cultural setting Moscovici, Two cognitive mechanisms, anchoring and objectification, are critical to an understanding of these representations.

For example, the unfamiliar phenomena that occurred following the Chernobyl disaster explosion, food contamination, etc. Eventually the familiar becomes assimilated and unified into a representation of the new object: objectification. Sperber has used the analogy of diseases to illustrate how cultural representations may influence different people and groups in varying ways.


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The study of social representations now forms a major part of British and Western European particularly French social psychology. Studies have been conducted on a wide range of representations, including representations of health and illness Herzlich, , mental illness Jodelet, , and aggression Campbell and Muncer, Although much of the earlier work used qualitative methods, research now uses a healthy diversity of methodologies e. Doise et al. The theory of social representations can make a number of useful contributions to crosscultural relationships research.

By linking personal relationships with wider societal concepts, social representations theory can be particularly useful when tackling relationships issues already heavily influenced by prevailing prejudices—for example, in understanding the difficulties surrounding the formation of inter-ethnic relationships, and in comprehending the spread of some sexual diseases.

Studies of social representations can also offer important guidance on the way in which values may persist or evolve and are generated between groups and generations. Finally, social representations research has illustrated the important manner in which representations may Relationships in a cultural setting 43 operate on a number of levels of consensus.

While some aspects of a broad representation may form relatively rigid norms, others may emerge through social interactions and particular experiences. Similarly, in many cultures there are shared rules about some aspects of family management but greater flexibility in other aspects of the familial relationship. As yet, there is practically no dedicated work on the social representations of personal relationships.

There is also a persisting uncertainty about the relationship between culture and social representations. In this book I will therefore only be suggesting possible routes through which relationship values may emerge in different cultures. Future work in the burgeoning social representations field will hopefully help clarify some of these processes. When individuals move to a new society, they adopt a complex pattern of continuity with their old culture, and new behaviours appropriate to their new setting Berry, Most theorists assume that changes at the individual level result from earlier changes in the broader population Berry, Most researchers focused on the negative impacts of acculturation, pointing to the high rates of suicide and drug abuse among many migrant communities Schneider et al.

However, changes in the acculturating individual are likely to affect his or her relationships in a complex manner, reflecting the adaptive demands of the situation Trickett and Buchanan, Acculturation is thus best seen as a set of alternatives rather than a simple process of assimilation or absorption Liebkind, Migration can lead to a range of changes in attitudes, from assimilation into the new 44 Relationships in a cultural setting community and losing contact with the old culture, to rejecting the new community outright.

Acculturation can also lead to a range of behaviours, from complete behavioural assimilation to violent protests. For example, just as family arrangements may be disrupted by migration, close family ties can also provide powerful social support following movements between cultures, with the family acting as a critical coping resource Gil and Vega, Indeed, family ties may actually be strengthened by the migration process. Ethnic revitalisation can also occur where a sense of continuity with the past can play an important part in the formation of new social groupings Eriksen, Berry lists three strategies of adaptation which have different outcomes.

Adjustment brings the individual into harmony with the new environment, allowing them to become part of the dominant society. This strategy is often unsuccessful if political power is absent. Finally, withdrawal involves a reduction of contact with the environment e. Several critical factors influence the strategy chosen and the success with which groups deal with their acculturation experience. These include the reasons for migration, the length and anticipated permanence of the move, the size of the acculturating group and the values of the new society.

Men and women and individuals from different generations are likely to acculturate at different rates, and individual factors influencing acculturation include education, type of wage employment, urbanisation, media contact, political participation, religion, language and degree of social interactions in the new culture Berry, ; Trickett and Buchanan, Acculturation styles are also related to basic personality variables. Such personality variables may be important mediators in the kind of coping style adapted by migrants Schmitz, One area of acculturation research with particular relevance to the present book concerns the relationship between adolescents and their families in acculturating groups.

Adolescents of immigrant status, or those whose parents were immigrants, often face the problem of dealing with two cultures at the same time, with the old culture represented by the family and the new one by their peers and their school environment. This often leads to adolescents receiving conflicting messages, which can in turn lead to complex behavioural outcomes.

Rosenthal et al. They sampled mothers, fathers and adolescents from forty working-class families in Melbourne half of them Anglo-Australian and half Greek-Australian as well as an additional Relationships in a cultural setting 45 twenty working class families resident in Greece. Respondents were asked to list the values they wished to develop in their children, and the values most respected by Australians or Greeks.

Greek respondents focused more on the family, and emphasised the importance of respected members of their community. This was in contrast to the more individualistic values of Anglo-Australian culture, which emphasised independence, material security and individual happiness. There was more evidence of shifting towards AngloAustralian norms in behaviour rather than values, suggesting that new cultural norms are more likely to be reflected in behaviour than in core values.

This echoes the findings of Horenczyk and Bekerman , who studied Russian emigrants to Israel. Feldman and Rosenthal examined autonomy values among Chinese adolescents in the United States and in Australia. Feldman and Rosenthal concluded that changes in autonomy expectations are likely to take place slowly, especially in the United States, and do not proceed evenly across all behavioural domains.

Overall, the host culture exhibited only a modest influence on the behaviours of the young: early dating behaviours and going on overnight trips with mixed-sex groups of friends, for example, were far less frequent among the Chinese youth of migrant families. Feldman and Rosenthal argue that the Chinese family structure may be particularly resilient to change because of its strong emphasis on generational transmission, no doubt enhanced overseas by an eagerness to maintain cultural integrity. A final example is the work of Hanassab and Tidwell , who conducted in-depth interviews with young Iranian women in the United 46 Relationships in a cultural setting States.


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Hanassab and Tidwell note that, although a generation gap between parents and children has been observed in the white US culture, this gap is probably exacerbated for those coming from a culture as different as that of Iran. These findings may, of course, reflect the relatively small size of the American-Iranian community in comparison with the larger, and more confident, Chinese-American population.

Yet, as should be clear from what has been said here, modernisation and changes in geographical location can have many different effects on individuals and their friends, families and wider communities. Individuals and groups are likely to appraise the consequences of changes in their society and location in different ways: some may view these changes as a threat, others as a benefit, and others still as a challenge a challenge which may be stressful but may also offer new opportunities Lazarus, ; Schwarzer and Chung, Summary Recent years have seen a growing interest in evolutionary theories of social behaviour, which stress the universality of certain relationship behaviours.

Much of this work, however, must be seen as highly speculative. More productive has been research which has attempted to dimensionalise cultures, with the value dimensions of individualism-collectivism and power distance being the most powerful divisions for conceptualising cultural variations in relationship behaviours and beliefs. Such cultural values are likely to be strongly rooted in the ecological environment in which cultures are located.

Personal relationships across cultures are changing in a number of ways, with modernisation and mass migrations producing a complex cocktail of relationship adaptation and conflicts. Social representations theory helps us understand how cultural myths and stereotypes about relationships are spread and maintained, and how new, often threatening, relationship challenges are processed and integrated within existing cognitive precepts. The next two chapters will discuss the cultural bases for the formation of long-term relationships and the dynamics that might underlie the relationship formation process.

Because of the over-whelming emphasis of the cross-cultural literature on heterosexual pairings, I will focus on opposite sex couples in this review. In the following pages I consider the role of the arranged marriage in many societies, and the kinship rules practised in many cultures, before moving on to consider preferences for a partner, and the roles and meanings of love in different cultures.

The arranged marriage Throughout the world, marriage can be divided along a continuum ranging from those societies where marriage is totally arranged to those where individuals have complete freedom in mate choice, although there are relatively few societies at either extremes of this division Rosenblatt and Anderson, People in almost all cultures have some general limitations as to whom they can marry and share sexual relationships with Eriksen, ; Rosenblatt and Anderson, ; Schlegel, , and rules of exogamy and incest are evident across cultures Parker, Nevertheless, it is wrong to equate the influence of such external forces in Western societies with the degree 47 48 Relationship formation of restraint imposed in many of the non-Western societies, where the arranged marriage is primary.

Worldwide, the most common method of mate selection is by arrangement, usually by parents with the aid of relatives or matchmakers Ingoldsby, b. Arranged marriages can be seen as having a number of potential benefits for a society: they foster the preservation of the social structure of a society, enable elders to maintain family control, allow for the furtherance of political and economic linkages between families, and help preserve families over generations and family property within the larger kin unit Fox, Alliances between families can often provide the only form of social and economic protection in a poor society.

In the arranged marriage the couple will often have met each other only infrequently prior to marriage Rosenblatt and Anderson, Women in particular may marry at an early age most brides worldwide are in their mid-to-late teens Schlegel, If women marry later, they are likely to be chaperoned in public. For example, in Iran the choice of spouse is supervised by family members, with dating and the free choice of a partner being very rare Hanassab and Tidwell, ; Nassehi-Behnam, Stephens describes the custom of nunghop but, practised by the Iban of Borneo.

Here a man can carry his beloved back to his village, leaving gifts for the pursuing family along the way. If this is not paid, the marriage might be considered void, and often there are disagreements about such payments Eriksen, This establishes two kinds of moral bonds between people: first, it creates a contractual tie, a link which symbolises trust; second, it solidifies the paying group, as often the groom must borrow from relatives to pay this price Eriksen, Mwamwenda and Monyooe found considerable evidence of support for bride-price among Xhosa-speaking graduate students in South African universities, with 88 per cent of their sample supporting the practice of bride- Relationship formation 49 price payment 84 per cent of the men and 90 per cent of the women.

Less common is the dowry, where a man is paying a family to relieve them of the burden of the daughter Ingoldsby, b. The dowry has been traditionally an important institution in Europe and some Asian societies Eriksen, This may be more likely in a culture which places a low value on women Ingoldsby, b.

Building Relationships in Cultures That Don’t Do Small Talk

A dowry can serve to exchange wealth for a higher social position, to marry a social equal, or to bring in a loyal son-in-law who will serve the family that brought him these goods. In India, the Dowry Prohibition Act supposedly made the giving of a dowry illegal, but the custom persisted Teays, , often being used as an opportunity for the obtaining of consumer goods in a society where such goods are still difficult to obtain for large portions of the population Ramu, Even where there is no tradition of giving dowries for example, among some lower-caste Hindu groups in India there can still be a considerable pressure for a father to provide for his daughter properly, to show izzat self-respect.

However, the importance of such economic factors to the institution of marriage is evident across a number of cultures. For example, among the Afro-American population in the US, marriage rates are often lower because of the difficult economic circumstances that confront so many members of this population Tucker and Taylor, While being on low income may not prevent the formation of a romantic relationship, it is a deterrent to the establishment of a formal marital relationship in which the man plays the role of provider. The social status and reputation of the family from which the spouse will come is also an important consideration for partner matching.

A further consideration in some societies is the existence of traditional marriage patterns held across generations, such as marriage between cousins Ingoldsby, b: Stephens, Marriage in Iran is usually within social class, and is often endogamous between parallel cousins or cross-cousins Hanassab and Tidwell, Similar marriages arranged within the extended family can be found in traditional African societies, where unions between nephews and nieces may be encouraged Sow, In Kuwait Al-Thakeb, a study of heads of households showed that almost half were married to relatives, more than three-quarters of these being first cousins, although this marriage pattern among relatives was less common in the educated and upper classes.

In other societies, complex kinship categorisation rules may operate, although these are not necessarily based on simple biological distinctions but may be determined by the convenience of allegiances Eriksen, Marriage within the group may be particularly significant when considerable resources are to be transmitted through marriages as in the British royal family Eriksen, One final practice of marital arrangement deals with remarriage patterns after the death of the first spouse. In sororate cultures, a sister replaces a deceased wife.

In contrast, under the levirate system, the death of a husband leads to the marriage of his wife to his brother Ingoldsby, b. Gupta reports a number of religious rituals and beliefs associated with partner selection, claiming that India is arguably the only part of the world where a wide variety of mate selection processes exist.

However, partners in love can also marry provided they are not considered unsuitable. Sprecher and Chandak examined attitudes towards the arranged marriage system amongst sixty-six young Indians. Participants in this study were generally positive towards both arranged marriages and Relationship formation 51 the dating system. Respondents strongly believed that a young couple should have some say in an arranged marriage. The role of individual choice can often be heavily influenced by wider political and social factors.

In China, the roles of state regulation and modernising forces provide a fascinating insight into the impact of macrolevel factors on partner choice. In feudal times, the economic background of the family was of primary significance in mate selection. He studied three different villages of varying wealth on the Sichuan-Yunnan border, and demonstrated how the return to bride-price and dowry payments had considerable economic consequences. During the s in China, rural economic reforms meant that the heads of households now had greater control over the labour of family members.

This then increased the economic power of the family unit. This demonstrates that economic changes can have far-reaching, and often unexpected, implications for family practices and partner selection. The largest study of partner preferences to date was described in Chapter 2 Buss, ; Buss et al.

They found that while British respondents stressed sensitivity and humour in romantic partners, Chinese respondents stressed a more pragmatic money-mindedness. More than 1, university students in the three countries indicated their partner preferences using similar items to those used by Buss.

Generally, kindness and understanding, a sense of humour, and expressiveness and openness were the most desired characteristics, although US students considered more traits to be indispensable and expected more from their relationships than those in Japan. In a study of young Indians, Sprecher and Chandak found that kindness, sense of humour and an expressive and open personality were the characteristics most desired in a marriage partner. These are very similar preferences to those that emerge from the Western literature, although, in a comparative sample, there was a slight preference for non-Indian Americans to prefer the physically attractive, athletic and outgoing partner Sprecher and Chandak, Although this was a small-scale study, primarily of a student population, the results suggest that when presented with a free choice, particular psychological characteristics may be universally valued.

Hofstede asked women in their twenties, taken from eight Asian cities, to rate fifteen traits they would seek in a steady boyfriend and a husband. Note, however, that this differentiation in preferences for the husband versus the boyfriend did not correlate with individualism-collectivism scores. In another study which indirectly incorporated notions of masculinity and femininity, Murstein compared the qualities of a desired spouse between French and US students.

Murstein hypothesised that French college students would be more traditional and less egalitarian in their desired spouse than US students, as sex role equality is more pronounced in the US than in France. They are also consistent with other studies on sex roles across cultures in finding that women in both cultures focus more on expressive concerns in relationships Williams and Best, , While we cannot be sure about the social pressures that underlie the placement of these advertisements, the characteristics desired in a spouse may reflect at least some of those characteristics also sought in a more traditional arranged marriage Fox, Ethnic Indians in Britain or Pakistan, who return to the Indian subcontinent to find a spouse, may place personal advertisements in newspapers which stipulate desired background characteristics such as education and religion Ingoldsby, b.

Both Camilleri in Tunisia and AbuLoghod and Amin in Egypt found that status characteristics such as education and income were frequently cited in these advertisements.

Relationships Across Cultures: The Challenges and Benefits

Despite the officially equal status of the sexes in China, Honig and Hershatter noted how Chinese women were more likely to stress their desire for particular occupations and education in men, while Chinese men seldom mentioned education or occupation in their list of partner preferences but sought women with beauty, gentleness, poise and the ability to run a household.

While men in China often failed to find partners because they had low salaries or were from poor districts, women often had difficulty because they were highly educated, or held demanding posts. Indeed, some 54 Relationship formation Chinese marriage bureaux refused to allow women to register who had university degrees, and many men seemed to fear that a well-educated women would be too domineering and a poor mother to their children. Attitude similarity seems to be important in partner choice—when, of course, individual partner choice is permitted.

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