Academic journal article College Student Journal

U.S. and Icelandic College Student Attitudes toward Relationships/sexuality

Academic journal article College Student Journal

U.S. and Icelandic College Student Attitudes toward Relationships/sexuality

Article excerpt

Seven hundred and twenty-two undergraduates from a large southeastern university in the U.S. and 368 undergraduates from The University of Iceland in the Reykjavik, Iceland completed a 100 item Internet questionnaire revealing their (mostly white and 20-24 years old) attitudes on various relationship and sexual issues. Significant differences (.01) included the desire to marry (U.S. undergraduates higher desire), interracial marriage (U. S. more willing), interreligious marriage (U.S. less willing), impulsiveness about love (U.S. more impulsive), love at first sight (U.S. more likely), cheating on partner (U.S. more likely), regret for early sexual behavior in relationship (U.S. more regretful), spanking versus time out (U.S. more likely to spank), same-sex marriage (U.S. less approving). There were no differences between U.S. and Icelandic students in regard to desire to have children (both high desire to have children), in commitment to end a relationship with a partner who cheated on them and in condom use (both did not use consistently). Implications and limitations are identified.


Iceland became part of U.S. consciousness in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted on April 14 causing the cancellation of thousands of flights across Europe and to Iceland. Anyone in the U.S. trying to fly to Europe was likely affected. Iceland was on the nightly national news for a week.

It is axiomatic that societies differ in regard to norms regarding relationships and sexuality. Iceland and the United States represent two diverse societies/cultures. Iceland is one of five Scandinavian countries (the others are Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway) representing over 40,000 square miles with a population of 320,000, mostly of Norwegian and Danish origins. In contrast, the United States is 3.79 million square miles with a population of around 330 million.

Williams (1993) noted that Iceland is not one homogeneous society/culture in that the western, northern, and southern regions of Iceland exhibit a moderate Celtic component these regions were settled by Norse Vikings from the British Isles. Eastern Iceland, believed to have been settled chiefly by Vikings from Scandinavia, reflects a large Norse component of admixture. The northwestern peninsula is also found to be predominantly Norse. Regardless of region, gender equality is highly valued in Iceland. According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2012, Iceland is first, closely followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden in regard to gender equality.

Research on marriage/family patterns in Iceland includes cohabitation, marriage, parenting and sexuality. Trost (1978) emphasized that cohabitation (not legally married but living under marriage like conditions) is an old Nordic tradition that still remains in Iceland. The relationship pattern of a typical couple is to pair bond, live together, have children and marry after a decade or more--hence a high premarital birth rate (Rich 1978), low illegitimacy rate (Vasey 2006) and low abortion rate (Sedgh et al. 2012). White et al. (2010) analyzed data from 567 adults (total) from the US, Finland and Iceland and found that marriage was important for more positive family dynamics only in the US. The researchers also noted greater family strengths in Finland and Iceland. Flence, the nuclear family (unmarried couple with children) has been the norm for family structure in Iceland with positive outcomes.

Egalitarian Icelandic parenting has also been the norm. Svavarsdottir (2005) reported on 26 parents (21 at follow up) taking care of a child with cancer. Eighty percent were married OR cohabiting. Regardless, both the mother and the father were involved in the care of their children and both reported the emotional drain of doing so. Current Icelandic law provides six months of maternity AND paternity leave (with an additional six months to be used by either parent)

Should the Icelandic cohabitation with children relationship not endure, primary custody of the children is more often given to the mother who qualifies for economic support; the father is required to pay a form of child support. …

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