Intercultural Marriage

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Paper #2 Interaction in Intercultural Marriage
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Running Head: INTERACTION IN INTERCULTURAL MARRIAGE

Marital Interaction in Intercultural Marriage: An Application of Expectancy Violation Theory

Ni Duan and Glenda Claborne

University of Arizona

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Abstract This paper analyzes marital selection, marital conflict, marital interaction and marital outcome in intercultural marriages using the premises and framework of Expectancy Violations Theory. A definition of intercultural marriage is given relative to other terms used in previous studies to describe the marriage between two people from different backgrounds. A brief summary of some previous research on intercultural marriage is added to give background information on the social factors impinging on intercultural marriages. Marrying across markedly different cultural lines is proposed to be a highly negative violation of the norm of endogamy found in most societies. This negative violation is posited to cause stress in the intercultural marriage. It is suggested that marital conflict can be reduced by achievement of consistency between intercultural couples. Marital interaction is inferred to be mediated by the intercultural couple's frameworks of reference regarding their similarities and differences, expectancies and attribution processes. Marital outcomes depend on the valence of the established pattern of marital interaction. Expectancy violations are surmised to perform different functions at an early and latter stage of the intercultural marriage.

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Introduction Intercultural marriage -- the marriage between individuals from different cultural backgrounds -- seems to offer a naturally occurring context for the integrated study of intimate relationships and cultural variations. Cultural variations in communicative practices have been important variables in the study of human communication, however, they were usually placed in the background when it comes to personal relationships (Gaines, 1995), because the consideration of culture tends to bring out the tension between the specific and the universal. The fact that there is considerable cultural diversity in communicative practices has caused philosophical debates over whether communication scholars should or will ever come up with general, universal laws governing human communication. However, there is now an increasing trend in the study of culture and communication to view culture as diverse but having universal foundations. In his analysis of culture, meaning, and interpersonal communication, Streeck (1994) draws from diverse disciplines to demonstrate that cultural variations in human behavior, language, personality, and conceptions of meaning have evolutionary universal foundations. Streeck (1994) argues that interpersonal communication practices as well as any other cultural achievement are "always local and generic, specific and universal at the same time" (p. 312). In line with this dual view of culture and communication, this paper takes the phenomenon of marital interaction in intercultural marriages to be both specific and universal. There are two reasons why intercultural marriages share with all other marriages some universal, general or generic characteristics. First, in a sense, all marriages are

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intermarriages because no two individuals share exactly parallel background experiences (Falicov, 1986). Therefore, intercultural couples have to strive for mutual accommodation as any couple strives for marital satisfaction. Second, intercultural couples share the same basic human needs for affection, support, trust and respect for and from each other as any other married couple. At some level then, intercultural marital interaction shares the same trajectories towards marital satisfaction or dissatisfaction as any couple. Not only...
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