Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Dual-Resident Marriages in Thailand: A Comparison of Two Cultural Groups of Women

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Dual-Resident Marriages in Thailand: A Comparison of Two Cultural Groups of Women

Article excerpt

The advent of urbanization and economic specialization has greatly affected family structure, size, and residence (Adams, 1971; Coontz, 1997). These broad and macro-level changes have greatly affected families not only in the United States and Canada, but in all parts of the world experiencing such economic and social transformations. One major change has occurred in family residence patterns. Of particular interest to this work, is the prevalence of dual-residence marriages in Thailand. This situation is where a married couple resides in two different residences, often many miles away from each other. The purposes of this study are to understand the perceived attitudes, consequences, and motivations for dual-resident family arrangements among women in Thailand.

Dual-resident marriages also are referred to as commuter relationships (Bunker, Zubek, Vanderslice, & Rice, 1992). While this living arrangement is at times viewed pessimistically or as deviant from an idealized American viewpoint of family life, advantages, such as less role overload, have been identified (Bunker et al., 1992; Jackson, Brown, & Patterson-Stewart, 2000). However, some negative aspects to this type of relationship have been identified. Couples in commuter relationships reported higher levels of dissatisfaction with family life, intimate relationships, and with life as a whole. In the United States, the major reasons for entering into a dual-resident marriage are for career development and employment opportunities (Gross, 1980). It is important to note that dual-resident marriages differ from dual-residencies caused by divorce or separation. This paper focuses on intact marriages wherein the partners live in a dual-residency pattern.

The prevalence of dual-resident marriages in Thailand has been identified as relatively high when compared to Western practices. Chamratrithirong, Morgan, and Rindfuss (1988) estimated that in the central region of Thailand, 41 % of all couples lived apart after marriage. Estimates in the U.S. are that one million persons live in a dual-resident marital arrangement (Maines, 1993). The primary reasons for the prevalence of dual-resident marriage arrangements in Thailand are believed to be for economic, occupational, and educational needs.

Two cultural groups were interviewed regarding various aspects of dual-resident marriages, including the motivations for and consequences of living in a dual-resident marriage. The first group is designated as the Village group and is comprised of agrarian village women living in a dual-residency marriage. The second group, referred to as the University group, is comprised of professional women also living in a dual-residency marriage. The purpose of comparing the University and Village women was to illustrate differences in broader cultural factors that may influence motivations for choosing this pattern of family residence and its consequences for individuals and families. A review of the literature, describing the employment and economic situations for women in both groups, is now presented.


Village Group Occupational Conditions

Thailand is currently undergoing broad economic changes. Traditionally, Thailand has been largely an agrarian society. With increased industrialization, that began to occur on a large scale in the 1930s, many people have moved to larger cities (Limanonda, 1995). As a result of increased industrialization and specialization in the economy, large numbers of jobs in agriculture have disappeared. Many villagers, who lived in rural areas and subsisted from agricultural labor, have found farming insufficient in supplying the necessary income for their families. For most rural families, the main concern is to find the means financially to support themselves and their children (Jamnamwej, 1977; Limanonda, 1995). In response to this shift in the economy, large numbers of people have migrated from the small agricultural villages to metropolitan areas in search of employment (Chamratrithirong, 1980). …

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