Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Enhancing the Relationship Adjustment of South Asian Canadian Couples Using a Systemic-Constructivist Approach to Couple Therapy

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Enhancing the Relationship Adjustment of South Asian Canadian Couples Using a Systemic-Constructivist Approach to Couple Therapy

Article excerpt

South Asians are the fastest growing visible minority group in North America. Currently, they represent the largest visible minority group in Canada (5% of the population; Statistics Canada, 2011) and the third largest in the United States (1.2% of the population; United States Census, 2010). In contrast to their major presence in North America, however, South Asians are one of the most underrepresented ethnic groups in psychological studies, particularly marital research (Karney & Bradbury, 1995; Karney, Kreitz, & Sweeney, 2004). Such a lack of research on the topic of marriage with this ethnic group is ironic given that marriage is the most valued social institution for South Asians and there are notable differences in the meaning and dynamics of marriage between South Asian and White European couples.

For South Asians, marriage represents the unification of two families not just two individuals (Nath & Craig, 1999). In the Indian subcontinent, parents have traditionally arranged marital unions and marital dissolution occurs less frequently relative to countries in the Western hemisphere. Although some customs have evolved in recent times due to social changes such as urbanization, there continues to be a strong desire for many South Asians to have their parents arrange or at minimum approve of their marital partner (Kapadia & Miller, 2005; Madathil & Benshoff, 2008) and partners in an arranged marriage are no less satisfied in their marriage than partners in a marriage of personal choice (Myers, Madathil, & Tingle, 2005). The purpose of a marriage is to fulfill not only companionship needs, but practical goals such as fulfilling one's religious duty, proSaunia creation, and enhancing the financial and social status of both the couple and their respective families. Therefore, marital partners are matched based on pragmatic considerations such as religious caste, financial, social and educational status, and family background. Couples often reside with their extended family throughout their married life, and conflict with in-laws is frequently a primary source of marital distress for couples presenting for professional help for their marriage (Nath & Craig, 1999; Sandhya, 2009; Sonpar, 2005).

For South Asians who immigrated or were born and raised in North America, fulfillment of companionship and emotional intimacy needs have become increasingly more important to their marital well-being than was the case for previous generations of South Asians. Still, South Asian couples in the Western hemisphere strongly endorse the notion that a successful marriage fulfills partners' personal goals that are part and parcel of the goals of their extended families such as continuing the family lineage; advancing practical and financial goals; improving economic or social status; fulfilling religious and cultural obligations; expanding kinship ties (Ahmad, 2006; Goodwin & Cramer, 2000). Many South Asians residing in North America strongly prefer to marry someone who is of a similar ethnic, religious, and family background (Inman, Howard, Beaumont, & Walker, 2007) and desire their family's approval of their marital partner (Ahmad, 2006; Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1991). Such differences in the meaning of marriage between South Asians and their Western counterparts have implications for what factors contribute to South Asian partners' marital adjustment. For instance, research has found that practical goals such as achieving financial security and fulfilling shared cultural and familial values are more important to South Asian couples' marital adjustment than to their Western counterparts (Madathil & Benshoff, 2008).

Another observation is that the quality of marital communication appears to contribute less to South Asian couples' relationship satisfaction relative to their White European counterparts (Rehman & Holtzworth-Munroe, 2007; Yelsma & Athappilly, 1988). However, this observation is a result of the cultural bias inherent in defining and measuring constructive and nonconstructive patterns of marital communication. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.