Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Same-Race and Interracial Asian-White Couples: Relational and Social Contexts and Relationship Outcomes 1

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Same-Race and Interracial Asian-White Couples: Relational and Social Contexts and Relationship Outcomes 1

Article excerpt


In the past forty years, the number of interracial marriages in the United States has increased from 310,000 to 2.3 million (Fryer, 2007; US Census Bureau, 2011). In the study of interracial romantic relationships, the general conclusion among social scientists has been that they are less stable than their same-race counterparts due to various relational and social contexts unique to them (Bratter & King, 2008; Chow, 2007; Heaton, 2002; Zhang & Van Hook, 2009). However, some studies have found no differences between the two groups (Gaines & Agnew, 2003; Gaines, et ah, 1999; Troy, Lewis-Smith, & Laurenceau, 2006). In addition, the relationship outcomes of interracial couples have not been generalized across all racial pairings (Bratter & Eschbach, 2006; Bratter & King, 2008; Zhang & Van Hook, 2009). Asian-White marriages, in particular, have been reported to have significantly high rates of marital success (Bratter & King, 2008).

Recognizing that Asians and Whites have a reportedly high rate of intermarriage with each other (2010 Census; Fryer, 2007), this study expands the Asian American family research literature by focusing on the level of relationship satisfaction and stability among AsianWhite couples, as well as the relational and social contexts that predict Asian-White couples' relationship satisfaction and stability. In contrast to most interracial marriage studies which obtained samples from ethnically diverse communities such as California and Hawaii (Fu, Tora, & Kendall, 2001; Hwang, Saenz, & Aguirre, 1994), this study uses data from community-based, non-military households that included data from both partners so that a more complete picture of the Asian-White couples' relationship well-being could be examined. This study is important because, not only are Asians consistently considered as the most intermarried race among American minority groups (Lee & Bean, 2008), they also have different cultural construals of self and others (i.e., relational interdependence) compared to Americans (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Despite these differences, however, Asians and Americans have a relatively close social distance which can possibly offset the risks posed by their differences (Zhang & Van Hook, 2009).


The increase in minorities intermarrying with Whites indicates that minority individuals has adapted and changed their cultural patterns to eventually assimilate into the host culture. McFadden (2001) suggested that this is a product of direct and continuing between groups with different cultural backgrounds. As social norms pertaining to intermarriage changed over the years, scholars suggest that the conventional wisdom of Park's (1928) conceptualization of the "marginal man" might not apply to today's society (Rosenfeld, 2005).

In Park's (1928) theory of marginalization, an individual who is immersed in two different cultures can experience isolation from each culture. Chan (1997) suggested that intermarried individuals who feel marginalized from their respective cultures are more prone to confusion and distress which can increase conflict on the dyadic level. On the other hand, Chan and Wethington (1995) proposed that the presence of context-specific stressors such as cultural differences and social opposition lead interracial couples to learn coping and conflict resolution styles which enables dyadic growth and development. This resiliency perspective offers an explanation as to why some interracial couples experience positive relationship outcomes (Bratter & Eschbach, 2006; Bratter & King, 2008).


Asians have been consistently considered as the most interracially involved race among American minority groups in the last fifty years, with them mostly intermarrying with Whites (Hidalgo & Bankston, 2010; Khanna, 2004; Kitano, Yeung, Chai, & Hatanaka, 1984; Lee & Bean, 2008). …

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