Discuss research into the influence of culture on romantic relationships (4 marks + 8 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.

    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.

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