Discuss research into the nature of relationships in different cultures. (9 marks + 16 marks)

In this question you should outline and evaluate elements such as the degree to which cultures are voluntary or non-voluntary, the involvement of family, norms and rules. Make sure your AO2 content is explicitly AO2 rather than just descriptive.

Relationships in Western and non-Western cultures differ in the degree to which they are voluntary or non-voluntary. Western cultures generally have a high degree of social & geographical mobility, allowing frequent interaction with a large number of people and thus a high degree of choice in romantic relationships. Non-Western cultures have less social and geographical mobility and people therefore have less choice about whom they interact with; Interactions with strangers are rare and are often tied to other factors such as family or economic resources.

    Cultures also differ in the degree to which relationships reflect the interests of the individual or the family. In individualist cultures, individual interests are deemed more important & romantic relationships are more likely to be formed on the basis of love & attraction. In collectivist cultures, relationships are more likely to reflect the interests of the entire family.

      Cultures differ greatly in terms of the norms that apply to the development of romantic relationships. These norms act as guidelines for appropriate behaviour within a culture & dictate how people relate to and communicate with each other in the development of romantic relationships. For example, Ma studied self-disclosure (revealing your motives and intentions) in internet relationships and found that American students self-disclosed sooner than East Asian students.

        Cultures differ in terms of the rules that apply to the development of romantic relationships. These rules can include courtesy and social intimacy. Argyle et al. studied relationships rules in the UK, Italy, Hong Kong and Japan, and found that different relationship rules applied to each of these cultures. However, some rules such as the showing of courtesy towards a partner were present in each culture.

        Although it might be expected that more voluntary relationships based on love would produce more compatible partners and therefore be more successful, this is not necessarily the case. In cultures where families play a key part in arranging a marriage, parents may be in a better position to judge compatibility as they are not ‘blinded by love’.

          There is research support for this idea that non-voluntary relationships can work as well as, if not better than relationships based on love. Epstein found that in cultures with reduced social mobility, non-voluntary relationships appeared to work very well, with lower divorce rates than Western marriages. However, this may be due to different cultural attitudes towards divorce. Marital satisfaction was the same for voluntary and non-voluntary relationships, suggesting that they work equally well.

            In contrast to this finding, a Chinese study by Xiaohe & Whyte found that women who had freedom of choice and who married for love were happier than women in arranged marriages. This study appears to support the claim that freedom of choice – which is more common in Western cultures – promotes marital stability.

              Unlike the cultural approach, the evolutionary approach to romantic relationships suggests that relationships are largely universal and thus that culture should have little effect. This claim is supported by Jankowiak & Fischer, who found clear evidence of romantic love in most of the 166 pre-industrialised societies studied, suggesting that it is universal & therefore a product of evolutionary rather than cultural factors.

                The claim that cultures differ in their norms relating to romantic relationships has been supported by a study by Moore & Leung. They found specific differences between Anglo-Australian & Chinese-Australian students in their attitudes to romantic relationships. This shows that cultural norms influence ideas of the      development of romantic relationships.

                  Argyle et al. found support for their predictions of cultural differences in some relationships rules (e.g. rules regarding intimacy) but not for others (e.g. the prediction that Japanese people place a greater emphasis on formalised gift exchange during the development of relationships). This suggests that many of the perceived differences between cultures are not supported by research.

                    There is a cultural bias in Argyle et al.’s research. The problem is that the list of rules being tested was put together in a Western culture. This may have resulted in a failure to include rules specific to particular cultures. This represents a cultural bias where a culturally specific idea is applied to a culture where it is less relevant: an imposed etic.

                      There may also be a historical bias in much of this research. There has been a significant increase in the number of voluntary & temporary relationships in the West in the past several decades, perhaps due to the increased urbanisation. This would also explain the significant increase in voluntary relationships in non-Western cultures such as India and China.


                      1. Would this be a full mark answer?

                      2. I found pretty much the exact same answer that is 20/24 marks http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=3209793 :)