Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Household Structure, Satisfaction and Distress in India and the United States: A Comparative Cultural Examination

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Household Structure, Satisfaction and Distress in India and the United States: A Comparative Cultural Examination

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Although psychological distress has been studied to a great extent in western and industrialized nations, few studies of the processes influencing distress have been conducted on more traditional and lesser developed societies. Factors that affect psychological distress in industrialized nations are linked to socioeconomic status, life-course stages, and family structures (Conger, Lorenz, Elder, Simmons, & Ge, 1993; Ross, Mirowsky & Huber,1983; Ross & Wu,1995). The married-couple relationship has long been considered one of the most important predictors of psychological well-being in the family (Gove, Hughes, & Style, 1983; Waite, 1995; Willams, Takeuchi, & Adair, 1992). Other research has demonstrated that the presence of children in the household has a negative effect on marital satisfaction and either a weak positive or negligible effect upon parent's psychological distress (McLanahan & Adams, 1987; Ross et al., 1990; Waite et al., 1985; White & Booth, 1985). Furthermore, high socioeconomic status offers more social support, additional material wealth, and provides such psychological resources as instrumentalism and flexibility, all which work to increase satisfaction and decrease psychological distress (Ross & Wu, 1995; Ross & Mirowsky, 1992; Ross & Mirowsky, 1939). The above mentioned factors are likely to influence psychological distress and satisfaction in developing nations as well as developed nations. However, relationships established in developed countries are likely to be quite different in nations of a lower level of development due to societal differences in cultural and social environments.

This study compares the effect of household composition on psychological distress and satisfaction in two nations of different levels of industrialization: the United States and India. Specifically, we predict that marriage will be more important for higher home satisfaction and lower psychological distress than other family relationships in the United States while ascribed filial bonds will have a stronger effect than marriage in India. Due to the greater emphasis upon individual autonomy and self-gratification in the United states, individuals are likely to choose marriage partners that provide fulfilling social support while Indians are more likely to marry based upon more practical socioeconomic criteria. Alternatively, Indian cultural values of self-subordination to family and powerful affective bonds with children dictates that parent-child relationships will be more emotionally rewarding. The strength of family relationships have profound effects upon psychological distress (Ross et al., 1990), and the cultural differences that construct the nature of the relationships in households are likely to lead to different effects of household structures on well-being. Therefore, a comparative study between India and the United States is likely to demonstrate dramatic contrasts in the relationship between household composition, psychological distress and home satisfaction.

INTIMACY, INDIVIDUALISM AND COLLECTIVISM TWO CULTURES IN REVIEW

Individualism and its polar opposite, collectivism, have strong implications for nature of intimate family relationships. Individualistic cultures allocate priority to goals concerning the personal identity of individuals, while collectivist cultures emphasize the value of the extended family or the immediate community (Hui & Triandis, 1986). Love and intimacy in Western culture has a particular ideological content that distinctly separates it from Asian societies. Shorter (1977) attempted to detail the dominant ideologies that determines the nature of intimacy in Western Society. The cultural construction of "romantic love" helped to set the stage for the dominance of the American nuclear family. This notion dictates that for everyone there was one other out there who was a perfect match for them. Once the two met, the two would recognize each other instantly, and would proceed to live together in "wedded bliss" for the rest of their lives. …

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