Mate Selection Across Cultures


Edited by: Raeann R. Hamon & Bron B. Ingoldsby

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    After studying the mate selection process, we dedicate this work to Jeff Hamon and Valerie Ingoldsby, the best spouses to be found anywhere in the world.


    Raeann R.HamonBron B.Ingoldsby

    We are pleased to be able to offer this volume on mate selection to the W interested reader. Our belief is that there are very few topics that would be of greater interest to more people than is the formation of this human bond. Decades of cross-cultural research establish that the family is the fundamental unit of society and that it is in fact a universal human social experience (Ingoldsby, 1995). In this collection, we attempt to increase global awareness by describing the meaningful processes, tradi tions, and practices associated with couple formation around the world. The reader will see numerous similarities and differences among and between the countries.

    We enter our families of orientation by birth or adoption and then create our own families of procreation with adult cohabitation generally rit ualized as marriage. When we consider the amount of time that we spend with spouses and the impact that these relationships have on our emotional lives, mate selection is likely one of the most important decisions that we will ever make. As it turns out, all societies have a vested interest in suc cessful families and have values and customs that regulate the process of forming them. Exploring the similarities and differences around the globe and across our many societies is a fascinating enterprise.

    This text investigates that most basic of human endeavors—couple formation—with particular attention to those relationships that lead to marriage. As the reader will see, some marriages come from agreements made between family members or arrangements negotiated by matchmak ers, whereas others are the result of free choice with minimal or no appar ent influence from others. Some view love as an essential precursor for marriage, whereas others hope that love will spring from a well-matched pairing. In any event, this book describes how single people and/or their families from various parts of the world negotiate the marriage market. How do individuals and/or their families filter through the pool of prospec tive mates to select the right partners? Which characteristics are most prized in a mate? How do variables such as personal and cultural values, religious beliefs and practices, political and historical contexts, socioeconomic standing, and interpersonal attraction affect the pairing process?

    In addition to delineating the partner selection process, each chapter also examines the practices, customs, traditions, rituals, and ceremonies associ ated with the formalization of the relationship. As Bahn and Jaquez (2000) helped us to see in their article on Dominican bridal showers, associated rituals and traditions that are part of the marriage trajectory are very enjoy able and reveal important underlying values and information about a cul ture. Thus, in this text, the reader will also learn about the significance of symbolic fights between the families of the bride and groom, bride wealth negotiations, ring dances prior to the marriage, the wedding reception, lucky days on the Chinese lunar calendar for establishing the wedding date, the engagement party, unique foods that are prepared and shared among guests, wedding rings and related jewelry, motorcades, and marriage contracts.

    Cultural diversity is so overwhelming that it is virtually impossible to do this topic justice. We have decided to highlight 14 countries from around the world. Most of them also have their own subcultural diversity. Although space limitations allow us to address in any detail only one or two of the dominant cultural patterns within each country, we are very cog nizant of the tremendous diversity and variation that exist within any one country.

    We have tried to represent the various geographic and cultural regions of the world. In part, each selection has been determined by our ability to identify a capable family scholar who could address that particular area. In all cases, the authors are recognized experts who have done con siderable research and/or have lived in the countries about which they are writing.

    We begin by examining couple formation in the United States. This pro vides a framework for comparison with the lesser studied groups. We then travel to the Caribbean and the people of the Bahamas. Afterward, our journey takes us from North America to South America and the Latin people of Ecuador. The republic of Trinidad and Tobago makes a logical ending point for the New World and bridge to the Old, given that this nation constitutes a blending of many peoples and cultures.

    Crossing the Atlantic, our investigation takes us to Ghana in West Africa and then to Kenya in East Africa. After that, we move up into the Middle East with Islamic Egypt, Jewish Israel, and secular Turkey. Spain and the Netherlands contrast the more traditional Southern Europe with the quickly evolving North.

    We continue our odyssey by moving east to the two most populous nations on earth: India and China. It is fitting to end our journey with Japan—situated in the Far East and with centuries of tradition but with a current modern Western focus.

    It becomes clear that there are a number of dichotomies that emerge repeatedly in many of these cultures. The reader will find the stresses and shifts between concepts such as modernization/traditionalism, arranged marriage/free choice, love/family practicality, cohabitation/marriage, and collectivism/individualism.

    Each chapter is designed to follow the same basic format. In this way, it is easier to make cross-societal comparisons and understand the flow of the mate selection process. Each chapter begins with one or two vignettes that serve as examples for how couples get together in that particular society. The vignette(s) is followed by some general background information on the country and its history. The literature on the partner selection process itself is then reviewed, culminating with an account of the ceremonies and customs that make up what we typically refer to as engagement and the wedding. Other information pertinent to the overall topic for that country may also be included. In each case, one or more relevant photos are also included to help personalize this most important and powerful human activity.

    It is our hope that the reader will enjoy learning from this book as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

    Bahn, A., & Jaquez, A. (2000). One style of Dominican bridal shower. In M.Hutter (Ed.), The family experience (
    3rd ed.
    , pp. 121–132). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
    Ingoldsby, B. (1995). Family origin and universality. In B.Ingoldsby & S.Smith (Eds.), Families in multicultural perspective (pp. 83–96). New York: Guilford.


    This work is clearly a joint effort and would not have been possible without the expertise and assistance of a multitude of people. First and foremost, we thank our contributing authors for sharing the fascinat ing research they have been conducting in various countries around the world. We are grateful for their responsiveness to our feedback and their respect for deadlines. Second, we thank David M. Klein for helping us to hone our prospectus, shaping our goals and objectives for the book in response to the comments of reviewers (to whom we are also appreciative for their assistance in improving the volume). We are also very grateful to the staff at Sage Publications—Jim Brace-Thompson, Karen Ehrmann, Anna Howland, Sanford Robinson, and D. J. Peck—for answering our questions, offering support, and guiding us through the process. A special word of thanks is extended to Cherie K. Snavely, a student in family science, for her careful reading of final drafts. Finally, we are particularly indebted to Tonya L. Baker for her competent secretarial support, file management, and editorial work.

    Raeann R.Hamon
    Bron B.Ingoldsby
  • Author Index

    About the Editors

    Raeann R. Hamon is Professor of Family Science and Gerontology in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at Messiah College. She currently holds one of two Scholar Chair Awards at Messiah College. She received her Ph.D. in family and child development and her graduate certificate in gerontology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She has numerous publications and presentations on topics such as filial responsibility, family relationships during later life, parents' experience of adult children's divorce, intergenerational service learning, Bahamian folklore, and Bahamian family life. A certified family life educator, she is an enthusiastic teacher of courses such as Marital Relationships, Dynamics of Family Interaction, Sociology of Aging, and Foundations of Marriage and Family. She is currently president of the Association of Councils and is a member of the executive board of the National Council on Family Relations, where she is also an active member in the International section.

    Bron B. Ingoldsby is Associate Professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. He received his Ph.D. in child and family development from the University of Georgia. A leader in the area of cross-cultural family research, he is the author of numerous professional publications, including (with Suzanna Smith) Families in Multicultural Perspective. His current work focuses on family change among the Hutterian Brethren and marriage in Latin America. He is a popular teacher of courses such as Marriage Preparation, Family Theories, and Family and Culture. He was honored as the 2002 recipient of the Jan Trost Award for Outstanding Contributions to Comparative Family Studies by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). He has served twice on the NCFR board as the chair of the International and Religion sections.

    About the Contributors

    Nuran Hortaçsu is Professor of Psychology at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1973. Her research interests include family, interpersonal relationships, culture and relationships, intergroup relations, and developmental social cognition.

    Naoko Kimura is a doctoral candidate in counseling and educational psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her academic emphasis is on multicultural counseling and college student development. Her research interests include using relational-cultural models in the study of international adolescents, college students, and women. She holds an M.S. in human development and family studies from the University of Nevada, Reno.

    Nilufer P. Medora is Professor of Family Studies in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at California State University, Long Beach. She has a master's degree in life span human development and family studies from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, India. She also has a master's degree in child development and family studies from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and a Ph.D. in family studies from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She teaches a variety of courses in family studies, including Family and Personal Development, Family Life Education, Child and Family in the Community, and International Families: Families in Cross-Cultural Perspectives. She is also the coordinator of the Family Life Education certificate program. Her research expertise and interests are in the areas of cross-cultural studies, criteria for mate selection, attitudes toward love and romanticism, family strengths, and teenage pregnancy.

    Colleen I. Murray is Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Social Psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research interests focus on adolescent women's relationships and development within the context of the social construction of meaning across cultures, grief and families (including media reporting across cultures of mass tragedies involving children or adolescents), and theoretical and methodological issues in the study of families. In addition to teaching courses on theory, methods, and relationships, she has developed Web-based courses in the areas of adolescent development, grief, and loss. She received her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University.

    Lucy W. Ngige is Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya. She holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in family and child ecology from Michigan State University. She also has taught at Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom. She has served as UNICEF research consultant for early childhood, women, and family development in Kenya and Sudan; as national vice chairperson of the Child Welfare Society of Kenya; as national treasurer of the Kenya Home Economics Association; and as a member of the Home Economics Association for Africa.

    J. Roberto Reyes is Associate Professor of Family Science and Director of the Latino Partnership Program at Messiah College. Prior to his move to Pennsylvania in 1996, he resided in Southern California, where he taught part-time at Azusa Pacific University and worked as coordinator of mental health services for the Family Preservation Program at Foothill Community Mental Health Center. He received his Ph.D. in marital and family studies (1995) and master of divinity in marital and family ministries (1992) from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is a certified family life educator with the National Council on Family Relations and a clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. With extensive clinical experience working with Latino families, he has also conducted parenting education classes for both Latino immigrant parents and their adolescents. He is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    Shulamit N. Ritblatt is Associate Professor in the Department of Child and Family Development at San Diego State University. She received her Ph.D. in family relations and child development from Florida State University in 1993. Her work experience ranges from working with families and children from diverse cultural backgrounds in educational settings, psychotherapy, and interventions programs to teaching a wide range of undergraduate and graduate classes. Her research focuses on parent-child interactions across the life span, images of elderly and grandparents in children's literature (cross-cultural comparison), theory of mind and emotional development in young children, transitions, and the home-school relationship.

    Paul L. Schvaneveldt is Assistant Professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at Weber State University. He completed his Ph.D. in human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1999. His research focuses on Latin American families and youth. He has served as executive director of the Idaho/Ecuador Partners of the Americas.

    Winston Seegobin is Associate Professor of Psychology at Messiah College, where he is also a psychotherapist with students of color and international students at the Messiah College Counseling Center. He has a Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Central Michigan University. He is a member of the American Psychological Association. A national of Trinidad and Tobago, he has written and presented on marriage and is currently conducting research on legal and common law marriages in Trinidad and Tobago.

    Bahira Sherif-Trask is Associate Professor of Individual and Family Studies at the University of Delaware. She received her undergraduate degree in political science from Yale University and her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research centers around the intersection of work and gender in ethnically diverse and international families.

    Baffour K. Takyi is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Akron. Originally from Ghana, he obtained his B.A. from the University of Ghana, Legon, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University at Albany, State University of New York. His research interests include household and family processes in Africa, reproductive health behavior, and African immigrants.

    Kristen M. Tarquin is a graduate student in the doctoral program in counseling psychology at the University of Buffalo. She is currently working as a graduate assistant in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

    Linda J. Trollinger is a doctoral student and research assistant in the Department of Family Studies at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on family dynamics within Appalachian, Kenyan, and Native American families. Her work emphasizes informal family support, couple formation, social and cultural competency, and elder life experiences.

    Manfred H. M. van Dulmen is Research Associate and Instructor in the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. He received his M.A. degree in clinical child and adolescent psychology from the Free University of Amsterdam and his Ph.D. in family social science from the University of Minnesota. His current research interests include the investigation of individual and relationship processes underlying the development of adaptive social behavior during adolescence and young adulthood, integrating cross-cultural perspectives on social development.

    Stephan M. Wilson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. His general areas of research and scholarly expertise are adolescent development within the context of families and parent-child relationships. He has examined family contributors to adolescent social competence, autonomy and conformity to parents by adolescents, the status attainment of adolescents and young adults, and family influences on young adult outcomes (e.g., relationship development, marriage readiness) among youth and families in the United States, China, and Kenya. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

    Yan R. Xia is Assistant Professor of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to that, she worked at the Girls and Boys Town National Research Institute for Children and Family Studies. A Chinese native, she received her master's degree in marriage and family therapy and her Ph.D. in family science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her current research focuses on immigrant youth and parents, substance abuse issues, and Chinese marriage and family.

    Zhi G. Zhou is Honorary Professor of Hebei University, Baoding, China, and is currently working as a senior statistician for First Data Resources. He earned a B.A. in English at Hebei University and an M.A. in English at Jinan University, Guangdong, China. He went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study family sciences in 1993 and got his Ph.D. in 2000. His research interest has been in early childhood education.

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