Individualistic VS Group based cultures

First of all it is important to mention that  romantic relationships are varied and depend on culture. Individualistic cultures, which include the Western world, choose their partner according to personal preferences. This happens because children in Europe and the USA are raised to be independent and self sufficient. In contrast, amongst group based cultures, which mostly include Asian countries,  individuals are more likely to select a partner according to the interests of their family or social group.


Importance of love

It was found that the presence of love is more important in individualistic cultures, while group based cultures use different criteria such as understanding and mutual benefit.

Levine supported it by conducting research in 11 countries. It was found that in the USA only 14% of people might agree to marry without love. Whereas it was 24% for India and 34% for Thailand. This shows that collectivist countries put less emphasis on romantic love in the formation of relationships. However, Pinker found that love is a universal evolutionary adaptive feeling. Love promotes survival and reproduction, and increases happiness. It also decreases stress and mortality by as much as 90% amongst 166 cultures, which is promising evidence for love.

Cultural differences in loneliness

Support for this idea comes from Seepersad. Using 227 students from US and Korea,  findings showed that the US  suffers more from romantic loneliness. Therefore, it is possible that there is a greater emphasis on romantic relationships in the West, precisely because of loneliness. While in non-Western countries people rely mostly on family, in Western ones they rely mainly on others. If their social needs are not satisfied Western people form romantic relationships in order to find support and form attachments, since there is less reliance on family. Furthermore, it was found that involvement in romantic relations is more common in the West, according to Moore and Leung’s study of 212 students.

Voluntary and non VS voluntary relationships

There is a view that because Western societies are more mobile,they have more choice of potential partners. Therefore there is no need for arranged marriages. However, Eastern societies are less mobile,so the arranged marriages are more common.This happens because of differences in mobility and attitude to the formation of relationships.

There is evidence that arranged marriages are working well. It was found that there is a lower divorce rate and half of the couples in arranged marriages fell in love later.

Myenes, who found that there is no difference in marital satisfaction between India and the USA, also supports this.

In addition, the modern world is changing. In 1949,there were 70% of arranged marriages, but in 1990-it fell to 10%. This supports the idea that arranged marriage is much less common in urban societies where there is greater mobility, as they have more choice even if the culture is collectivist by nature. Moreover, Changder found that the freedom to choose a partner made Chinese women more satisfied with their marriage, which conflicts with the findings of Myenes.

Another example of the effect of urbanization, is India. There was an increase in divorces among the middle urban class. This shows that urbanization leads to more freedom of choice and changes attitude towards arranged marriage. Therefore, divorces are more frequent in urban cultures.

Some psychologists argue that usually couples are blind with love, and do not see their partner’s negative qualities which could show up later. Therefore,  an arranged marriage could be the more rational option. However, this idea has been criticized; freedom to choose a partner has been shown to promote marital stability with many non arranged marriages being more lasting.

What about issues, approaches and debates concerning culture and romantic relations? Erikson argues, that romantic relations are important for personal development in adolescence and if these needs are not met it could lead to social isolation. Moreover, it was found that love is vital in Western culture, elsewhere however, such as China, family concerns are more important. Also, sex outside marriage is something that is more common in the West.

Also it was found that models of relationships in American comedies might influence Western attitudes towards romantic relations.This suggests that cultural variations may occur not because of culture but because of media influence.

However, there are methodological issues in the research into culture and romantic relations. The problem is that research is interpreted differently in different cultures. Therefore, measures of love and satisfaction in the West may not be valid for non-Western cultures. Indigenous psychologists therefore argue that there is a need to create  culture-specific research  instead of relying on methods brought from other countries.

Moreover, there is some criticism of this research being determinist, as it does not take factors such as free will into account and suggests that culture will determine a person’s attitude towards romantic relationships. This is clearly not always the case; humans are decision-makers and can make choices concerning romantic relationships on the basis of personality, economic level or other mediating factors.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.