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Personal Relationships, 3 (1996), 5-17. Printed in the United States of America.

Copyright 0 1996 Cambridge University Press. 1350-4126/96$7.50 .OO +

Cultural perspectives on romantic love

KAREN K. DION AND KENNETH L. DION


University of Toronto

Abstract
Culture-related dimensions contribute to a more complete understanding of romantic love. In particular, we
suggest that the dimensions of individualism and collectivism,at both societal and psychological levels, offer
insights into the nature of romantic love and its perceived importance for marriage. Changes in values
pertaining to romantic love and its role in choosing a spouse are evident in several traditionally collectivistic
societies and among persons from these societies emigrating to countries such as Canada, Australia, and the
United States. Given these trends, we discuss the need to study individualism and collectivism at the
psychological level and present findings from our own program of research.

A full understanding of romantic love must most socisl psychological theories and re-
consider the contribution of cultural fac- search on personal relationships, including
tors. Within psychology, cross-cultural re- those pertaining to love, have not consid-
search has been a specialized research ered the contribution of cultural factors,
topic, separate from the mainstream of whether at the societal level or the psycho-
the discipline. The field of cross-cultural logical level.
psychology has its own journals and reader- We suggest that, rather than regarding a
ship, and research appearing in these cross-cultural or ethnocultural perspective
sources may be overlooked by researchers as a specialized topic, it should be an inte-
whose main identification is with other ar- gral part of mainstream theory and re-
eas. Moreover, because of its categorization search on relationships. This suggestion
as a separate subfield, issues of concern to does not imply that all researchers studying
cross-cultural psychologists are sometimes personal relationships and interpersonal
not seen as relevant to researchers who re- processes should undertake cross-cultural
gard themselves as studying basic proc- research or research on ethnocultural vari-
esses in a subfield of psychology. As a result, ables within a given society. It does imply
that scholars studying these topics recog-
Preparation of this article was facilitated by a research
nize that theory and research are them-
grant to the authors from the Social Sciences and Hu- selves cultural phenomena, emergent from
manities Research Council of Canada. The review particular traditions.
process for this article was handled by Patricia Noller, An explicit consideration of cultural per-
Editor of Personal Relationships. We would like to spectives opens the possibility of greater
thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive
comments.
discussion and debate among scholars inter-
Requests for reprints can be sent to Karen K. Dion, ested in macro-level variables (e.g., social
Psychology, Life Sciences, Scarborough Campus, Uni- institutions, demographic trends) and those
versity of Toronto, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada interested in individual-levelvariables (e.g.,
M1C 1A4, or Kenneth L. Dion, Dept. of Psychology, beliefs, values). This perspective also en-
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S
3G3. F A X (416) 978-4811. Email: (K.K.Dion)
courages dialogue among scholars from dif-
DIONKK@PSYCH.UTORONTO.CA (K.L.Dion) ferent cultural traditions, with the potential
DIONKL@PSYCH.UTORONTO.CA for research collaboration. During the past

5
6 K.K. Dion and K.L. Dion

few years, there has been growing interest in Jankowiak and Fischers (1992) study has
cross-cultural and ethnocultural research been interpreted by its authors and others as
within the social psychology of personal re- providing strong evidence that romantic
lationships. love is universal (or near-universal)
As much of this work, especially that on across cultures. If this is so,why should social
mate preferences, has been guided by a so- psychologists and other social scientists be
cial evolutionary framework (e.g., Buss, interested in cultural perspectives on ro-
1988),cultural dimensions per se have been mantic love? Our answer to this question is
of less interest to researchers working revealed by examining the nature of the evi-
within this conceptual framework. Al- dence forming the basis of the claim that ro-
though culture is acknowledged as a proxi- mantic love is a near-universaloccurrence
mal influence on specific manifestations of across cultures. In Jankowiak and Fischers
characteristics valued in a potential mate, (1992) study, the folklore of various cultures
the main focus in the social evolutionary was, according to these researchers, the
tradition is on hypothesized distal influ- most fruitful means (p. 151) documenting
ences in the evolution of the human species the presence of romantic love in a culture.
(Buss, 1988). Much as a social evolutionary Love stories and love songs probably occur
perspective acknowledges the role of cul- in most, if not all, cultures. Stone (1988, p.
ture, a cultural perspective must acknow- 16),in his account of the history of romantic
ledge the biological bases of sexual attrac- love in Western societies, noted that cases
tion and sexual behavior. We believe, of romantic love can be found at all times
however, that understanding the social and places and have often been the subject
meanings assigned to these phenomena is of powerful poetic expression, from the
the central issue. In this article we present a Song of Solomon to Shakespeare.
culturally oriented perspective on love, es- The important issue, however, is the
pecially heterosexual, romantic love. meaning of this folklore for members of a
Anthropological evidence in support of given society. Western historical ev7dence
the cross-cultural universality of love was suggests that romantic love is culturally-
recently reported by Jankowiak and Fischer conditioned and neither social approba-
(1992), who undertook a content analysis of tion nor the actual experience of romantic
ethnographic material. They coded whether love is at all common to all societies
romantic love was mentioned in this mate- (Stone, 1988, p. 16). Jankowiak and Fischer
rial across 166 societies by the presence of at themselves acknowledged that cultural fac-
least one of the following indicators: de- tors may contribute to the likelihood that
scriptions of personal anguish and long- members of a given society will experience
ing; presence of love songs or folklore re- romantic love.
lated to romantic involvement; elopement Folk tales can express cultural ideals, be
based on mutual affection; native inform- outlets for suppressed emotions, or be cau-
ants descriptions indicating the presence of tionary moral tales (Brislin, 1980). Thus,
love, or the ethnographers stating that ro- accounts of passionate love in literature or
mantic love existed in that culture. One of songs in a given society do not per se pro-
the main challenges in coding this ethno- vide clear evidence that romantic love is
graphic material was to distinguish love valued and experienced by most members
from Lust. Jankowiak and Fischer noted that in that society. For example, Hsu (1981, p.
often it was not clear whether ethnogra- 50) argued that, in traditional Chinese so-
phers were simply using the term love to ciety, when a man said that he loved a
mean sexual attraction. Based on their girl, the statement usually carried the im-
analysis, they reported at least one indicator plication that something irregular was
of romantic love (also referred to as passion- afoot. If a woman told anyone she loved
ate love by these researchers) in 88.5% of some man, it would be tantamount to her
the diverse cultural groups in their sample. downfall.
Culture and love 7

Recent findings are consistent with following features: idealization of the ro-
Hsus observation. For example, in an mantic partner, suddenness of onset, physi-
analysis of emotion-related conce ts found ological arousal, and commitment to the
in American English compared t Lf modern well-being of the loved person. In their dis-
Chinese, Shaver, Wu, and Schwartz (1992) cussion of an evolutionary account of ro-
found that love had distinctive hedonically mantic love, Jankowiak and Fischers
negative connotations in the Chinese con- (1992) pointed out that, from this perspec-
ception of love, which they labeled sad or tive, romantic love emerged from forces
painful love. Wu (1992) found differences within the hominid brain that are inde-
between Chinese (Beijing, China) and pendent of the socially-constructed mind
American (western New York state) uni- (p. 150). However, they similarly defined
versity students when they were asked to romantic love as any intense attraction
list freely the features of love. More nega- that involves the idealization of the other,
tive features were listed by the Chinese within an erotic context, with the expecta-
sample compared to the Americans (Wu, tion of enduring for some time into the fu-
1992,Study l),suggesting that this aspect of ture (Jankowiak & Fischer, 1992,p. 150).In
love was more spontaneously salient to the our view, both healization of the partner
former group. Moreover, Wu (1992, Study and idealization of the experience distin-
4) also found that Chinese students agreed guish the concept of romantic love from
more strongly than did students in her US. sexual attraction or infatuation. The part-
sample with the statement that Love with- ner is regarded as unique and special;
out pain is not true love. According to Hsu the experience%$ romantic love is ex-
(1981), the Chinese term lien ai was a pected to be all-consuming, fulfilling, and
modern linguistic creation to find an ex- transcendent.
pression that described the Western term Some recent evidence indicates that
romantic love. young adults (specifically, university stu-
Given the preceding discussion, the va- dents in western Ganada) concept of ro-
lidity of the claim that romantic love is uni- mantic love has these features, namely
versal or almost universal depends on the idealization of and preoccupation with
level of analysis at which this assertion is ones lover (e.g., want to be with the person
made. A cultural perspective is necessary all the time; think about the person all the
to identify the conditions under which simi- time), physical attraction, and the belief
larities and differences in the meaning and that the experience of love itself has a spe-
the reported experience of romantic love cial quality (e.g., problems seem to vanish,
might occur. What is needed is an evolu- glowing feeling) (Fehr, 1994, Table 1, p.
tionary perspective on culture itself. Cul- 312). Participants in another study con-
tural differences are not simply variations ducted by Fehr (1994) were asked to iden-
reflecting a biological core. These vari- tify different types of love by matching lists
ations offer insights into qualitatively dif- of features previously generated for each
ferent views about love that have devel- type of love with the designated concept.
oped and evolved across different societies Romantic love was easily identified from
and in the same society at different phases the list of features provided by almost the
of its history. entire sample (92.31%). Other types of love
were more difficult to distinguish from one
another, at least given the labels included in
What Is Romantic Love?
this set. Moreover, prototype ratings of ro-
Scholars from different theoretical perspec- mantic love were related both to measures
tives seem to agree on several key features of romantic beliefs and passionate expe-
in the conceptual definition of romantic rience (Fehr, 1994,Table 6, p. 323), suggest-
love. For example, Averill (1985), in his so- ing that the concept of romantic love in-
cial constructionist account, proposed the cluded both these components.
8 K.K. Dion and K.L. Dion

Individualism, Collectivism, erlands, and New Zealand. In contrast, sev-


and Romantic Love: eral Asian societies such as Taiwan, Thai-
Cross-Cultural Comparisons land, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Pakistan
scored relatively low on individualism. In
Cultural traditions countries scoring low on individualism,
Hofstede suggested that the priority of the
We turn now to consider culture and ro-
collectivity prevails, such that loyalty to the
mantic love. To study the relation between
groups interests predominates; and in turn,
culture and social psychological variables,
in-groups provide for the well-being of
one approach has been to identify impor-
their members. Ones place in the social sys-
tant dimensions of cultural variation that
tem defines ones identity, and there is
are of relevance across diverse societies greater dependence on social institutions.
(Triandis et al., 1986). A fundamental issue We have proposed that both individual-
concerns the relation between the individ- ism and collectivism are dimensions of cul-
ual and the group, specifically the relative tural variation, which contribute to under-
priority accorded to personal versus group standing romantic love (K.L.-Qon & K.K.
goals in different domains of social life. In- Dion, 1988; K.K. Dion & K.L. Dion, 1993).
dividualism has been defined by Hui and Moreover, we have stressed the need to dis-
Triandis (1986) as the subordination of the tinguish the societal as contrasted with the
goals of the collectivitiesto individual goals, psychological level of these dimensions
and a sense of independence and lack of when studying their relation t romantic
concern for others (p. 245). Collectivism is
defined by these authors as a sense of har-
%
love (K.K. Dion & K.L. Dion, 19 -1,1993).
Societal individualism and societal collec-
mony, interdependence, and concern for tivism are revealed by cultural comparisons,
others, which at core reflects the subordi- whereas psychological individualism and
nation of individual goals to the goals of a psychological collectivism are manifested
collective (Hui & Triandis, 1986, pp. by individual differences within a g%en so-
244-245). Hui and Triandis found that so- ciety. The ideology of romantic love centers
cial scientists from diverse cultural back- on pursuing personal fulfillment and fol-
grounds showed high consensus on the lowing ones personal wishes, even if they
meaning of collectivism/individualism,pro- oppose those of ones family and kin. This
viding support for the relevance of these ideology is less likely to be encouraged in
constructs across different cultures and collectivistic as contrasted with individual-
nations. istic societies. Illustrating this point, tradi-
Based on his extensive survey research tionally in India, love before marriage was
on cultural differences in work-related val- thought to be a disruptive element in up-
ues among employees of a large multina- setting the firmly established ties in the
tional corporation, Hofstede (1984) identi- family, a transference of loyalty from the
fied individualism as one of four main family of orientation to a person, and a loss
dimensions on which societies can be of allegiance . . . leaving the family and kin
ranked and compared. He characterized so- group . . . for personal goals (Gupta, 1976,
cieties in which individualism was valued as p. 78).
emphasizing rights over duties, self-realiza- In a previous paper we suggested that
tion, personal autonomy, personal initiative, romantic love is more likely to be consid-
and identity based on ones personal attrib- ered an important basis for marriage in so-
utes. When these data were collected be- cieties where individualism as contrasted
tween 1967 and 1973,societies scoring high- with collectivism is a dominant cultural
est on individualism (based on the value (K.K. Dion & K.L. Dion, 1993,p. 58).
importance assigned to different work-re- In that article we noted, however, that
lated goals) included the United States, changes seemed to be occurring in beliefs
Australia, Great Britain, Canada, the Neth- about the relation between love and mar-
Culture and love 9

riage among recent cohorts of young adults Russia, and the United States on a diverse
in traditionally collectivistic societies.What group of measures pertaining to love. They
does the current cross-cultural evidence found culture-related differences on almost
suggest? all of the measures they examined (see Ta-
ble 4, Sprecher et al., 1994). One of the
items included in their measures was the
Evidence of social change
Kephart (1967) question concerning the
In a recent cross-cultural study, Levine, importance of love as a basis for marriage.
Sato, Hashimoto, and Verma (1995) asked Respondents were given only two response
undergraduate university students from options, yes or no; the undecided alterna-
secondary population centers in 11socie- tive was not included. Sprecher and her col-
ties-Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, India, leagues found that the proportion of re-
Pakistan, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, spondents who regarded love as a basis for
Australia, England, and the United marriage was lower in the Russian sample
States-to respond to three questions origi- than either the Japanese or the US. sam-
nally asked by Kephart (1967) and sub- ples, although it should be noted that the
sequently reexamined by Simpson, Camp- Japanese sample ma&y consisted of Eng-
bell, and Berscheid (1986). The first lish-language or American-studies majors.
question asked: If a man (woman) had all Respondents also completed Sprecher and
the other qualities you desired, would you Metts (1989) Romantic Beliefs Scale,
marry this person if you were not in love which assesses the ideology of romantic
with him (her)? In response to this ques- love. On this measure, the Japanese sample
tion, there were three alternatives: yes, no, scored lower than either the Russian or the
and undecided. As predicted by Levine and US. samples.
colleagues, young adults from three tradi- The extensive cross-cultural study of
tionally collectivistic Asian countries were mate preferences conducted by Buss and
most likely to answer affirmatively to the his colleagues (1990) is ako relevant to this
above question, with the specific percent- discussion. This study involved samples
ages of those replying yes as follows: from 37 different cultures (weighted mean
young adults from India (49%), Pakistan age of 23.15 years). Participants both rated
(50.4%), and, to a lesser extent, Thailand and ranked the desirability of a set of char-
(18.8%). acteristics that they would want in a poten-
However, young adults from other tradi- tial spouse. Across all respondents, the most
tionally collectivistic, Asian societies re- valued characteristic mentioned by both
sponded in a manner similar to their coun- women and men was mutual attrac-
terparts from traditionally individualistic, tion-love. This combined term could
Western societies. Very few of them stated have various meanings to respondents, such
that they were willing to marry without be- as being in love and/or love for ones
ing in love (5.8% in the Hong Kong sam- partner. As Berscheid and Meyers note
ple and 2.3% in the Japanese sample). elsewhere in this volume, love and i n love
Comparable percentages for the samples have different connotations to American
from three Western societies were: Austra- respondents (university students). There is
lia (4.8%), England (7.3%), and the United a potentially important difference between
States (3.5%). Levine and colleagues endorsing the necessity of romantic love
(1995) found a positive relation between (being in love) as a prerequisite for mar-
Hofstedes ratings of societal individualism riage and the desire for a caring relation-
and the importance of love as a basis for ship with ones partner (love).
marriage. Interestingly, differences occurred in the
Sprecher, Aron, Hatfield, Cortese, Pota- importance of mutual attraction-love
pova, and Levitskaya (1994) compared uni- among respondents from different Asian
versity students responses from Japan, societies in the study by Buss et al. (1990).
10 K.K. Dion and K.L. Dion

In the sample from mainland China, mu- samples from Taiwan and Hong Kong, Yang
tual attraction-love was neither the first, (1986) concluded that young adults there
nor the second, most highly valued charac- were, in fact, now individualisticrather than
teristic in a potential spouse for either men collectivistic, contrary to the traditional im-
or women, as assessed by the rank order of age of Chinese culture. He suggested that
the mean ratings. By contrast, it was at the research on value orientations indicated a
top of the list for samples from Taiwan and drastic movement away from the tradi-
Japan. Of the Asian samples, only those tional Chinese pattern . . . by Chinese
from Japan and Taiwan were student sam- young people in Taiwan and Hong
ples; the Chinese sample, obtained from Kong. . . . Chinese students now tend to
several different locations in mainland have value orientation patterns fairly simi-
China, did not consist of university students lar to those of American students (Yang,
(Buss, personal communication, April 21, 1986, p. 116). According to Yang, this
1995). It is possible, therefore, that the change has been from a social orientation
above findings are partly attributable to to an individual orientation7-that is, to-
sample differences, as university students in ward greater emphasis on seltexpression
Japan and Taiwan would be more likely to and personal gratification. Compared to
encounter Western literature and media previous cohorts of Japanese adults, a simi-
compared to adults from mainland China lar change toward a more individual ori-
who were not university students. entation also may characterize recent
Japanese samples of university students. At
t
the very least, we would expeb greater
Implications of social change
variability in value orientations such as in-
Consistent with our conceptual analysis dividualism and collectivism among recent
(K.K. Dion & K.L. Dion, 1993),in the U.S., and current cohorts of university students
British, and Australian samples of Levine et in Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan.
al. (1995), the importance of a love-based The proportion of young adults choosing
marriage was strongly endorsed. Also, feel- the undecided option to the Kephart
ings of mutual attraction-love for ones question about love as a basis for marriage
potential spouse were rated as highly im- also was substantial in samples from several
portant by young adults from these socie- Asian societies, namely Thailand (47.5%),
ties and from several Western European so- Japan (35.7%), India (26.9%), and the Phil-
cieties. Moreover, the relation between ippines (25%) (Levine et al., 1995). It is
Hofstedes ratings of societal individualism important to retain the undecided re-
and the importance of love as a basis for sponse option to this and other similar
marriage found by Levine and his col- questions. A high proportion of unde-
leagues clearly supports our hypothesis that cided responses can be interpreted as indi-
romantic love is more important as a basis cators of changing values, resulting in
for marriage in individualistic societies than greater indecision and/or ambivalence on
in collectivistic ones. the part of some young adults in societies
The pattern of findings among tradition- where views about relationships-in par-
ally collectivistic societies, especially Asian ticular, marriage-may diverge from those
societies, indicated considerable diversity. of previous cohorts.
We suggest that this diversity is consistent
with changes in value orientations occur-
Individualism, Collectivism,
ring among recent cohorts of young adults
and Romantic Love:
in several traditionally collectivistic, Asian
Ethnocultural Comparisons
societies-notably, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
These changes appear to be in the direction In this section we focus on the relation be-
of greater psychological individualism. tween ethnocultural factors and romantic
Based on several studies involving student love within a given society. In societies
Culture and love 11

characterized by ethnocultural diversity, cally occurred in samples from the United


the potential for different beliefs and styles States. We suggested that a belief in love as
of love exists, and such differences may altruism may reflect the influences of both
partly be attributable to respondents eth- cultural and gender-related factors. A view
nocultural background. In a recent study of love as agape is consistent with an em-
(K.L. Dion & K.K. Dion, 1993), we investi- phasis on interconnectedness in self-other
gated the relation between ethnocultural relationships.
background in an ethnically heterogeneous
sample of university undergraduates in
The role of immigration
Toronto, Canada, to individual differences
in styles of love, as assessed by the Love Research on beliefs about love and mar-
Attitudes Scale (Headrick, Hendrick, Foote riage among immigrants from diverse eth-
& Slapion-Foote, 1984). Participants were nocultural backgrounds is also relevant
asked to indicate the ethnocultural back- here: in particular, individuals who emi-
ground of both their parents. Considerable grate from traditionally collectivistic socie-
ethnocultural diversity existed in this Cana- ties (e.g., different Auan societies) to tradi-
dian sample, including participants from tionally individualistic societies (e.g.,
traditionally collectivistic (Chinese, East Canada, the United States, Australia). We
Indian, and Pakistani) and traditionally in- would expect that to the extent that they
dividualistic (e.g., English, Scottish) back- possess and retain collectivistic values,
grounds. Moreover, as the official Canadian adult immigrants f r q traditionally collec-
government policy has been one of mul- tivistic societies would not value the more
ticulturalism, there is societal support and individualistic approach to opposite-sex re-
encouragement for maintaining different lationships, including dating, free associa-
ethnocultural traditions, particularly in tion with the opposite sex, and the ideology
large urban areas, such as Toronto. of romantic love found in the host society.
These analyses concerned those indi- These beliefs and behaviors reflect valuing
viduals who indicated the same ethnocultu- the freedom of the individual to seek his or
ral ancestries for both parents. We found her own personal development and gratifi-
that young adults (university students) cation in close relationships beyond the
from Chinese and from other Asian back- family and to pursue these relationships
grounds endorsed a love as friendship without parental interference. In many
style more strongly than did those from An- non-Western societies, however, socializa-
glo-Celtic or European ethnocultural back- tion is not directed toward the develop-
grounds. Items illustrative of this love style ment of personal autonomy (LeVine, 1990).
included the following: You cannot love Instead, interconnected and interdepend-
unless you have first had caring for a ent social relationships are stressed; and it
while; Love is really a deep friendship, is assumed that family members will be in-
not a mysterious, mystical emotion. volved in influencing each others lives
We also found an interaction between (Shweder & Bourne, 1984). From this per-
gender and ethnocultural background on spective, parental influence in the lives of
the altruistic style of love (agape). Pairwise adult children, including arranged mar-
comparisons indicated that Asian women riages, is completely understandable. A
from ethnocultural backgrounds other than love match, especially marrying for love
Chinese (predominantly East Indian and despite strong family opposition, under-
Pakistani in this sample) endorsed this view mines the assumption of interconnected-
of the nature of love more than did women ness in the family.
from Anglo-Celtic backgrounds (English, Given space limitations, we focus here
Scottish, Irish). This finding was intriguing on research undertaken with Asian immi-
because in the literature on styles of love, grant families residing in Canada. Based on
gender differences in agape have not typi- interviews with a small sample of Indo-Ca-
12 K.K. Dion and K.L. Dion

nadian families about different aspects of ceptable once the couple were committed
family tradition, Filteau (1980) suggested to a permanent relationship (68.2%).
that respondents perceived a conflict be- Among the older, first-generation group,
tween the concept of love valued in the the sample was fairly evenly divided be-
traditional Hindu family and what they be- tween endorsing the view that marriage
lieved to be the North American (in this precedes love (54.5%) and love precedes
case, Canadian) ideal. For the former, the marriage (45.5%). Among the second gen-
themes mentioned included respect, toler- eration, the overwhelming preference
ance, obligation, duty, sacrifice, compromise (75%) was the alternative of marrying for
and marriage; for the latter, the themes love.
focused on individualism, materialism, in- Lee and Cochran (1988) identified issues
dependence, dating, divorce, selfishness and of concern to a small sample of young Chi-
romance (Filteau, 1980,p. 294). The differ- nese women from Hong Kong who had
ence in perspective was well captured by emigrated to Canada. These women fre-
the comment of one respondent who sug- quently commented on their desire to con-
gested that no clear obligation towards front their fears of separation from the
others grows out of the dating pattern in group to become ones own person. One
Canada (Filteau, 1980,p. 295). area mentioned was close relationships,
Given this contrast in orientation toward specifically the extent to which they should
others, it is understandable that among develop intimacy with individuals outside
Western practices, the most controversial the family group.
one for Indo-Canadian parents, regardless The kinds of stresses reportea by both
of their language or religion, was dating and parents and young adult children in these
the free association of their adolescent or studies of immigrants to Canada may re-
young adult children with opposite-sex flect the latters desire for greater auton-
peers (Kurian & Ghosh, 1983). Similarly, omy and self-reliance, consistent with
Naidoo and Davis (1988) found that, on greater emphasis on individualistic values
items pertaining to family relationships, such as personal choice and personal fulfill-
women of South Asian ethnicity in Canada ment stressed in the host society. Interest-
rejected what they perceived to be main- ingly, differences between first- and second-
stream Canadian values, such as dating generation immigrants, when they occur,
among adolescents and free choice, love- seem to be most pronounced on issues per-
based marriage for their daughters. When taining to personal relationships and family
asked about areas of stress in their lives in functioning (Vaidyanathan & Naidoo, 1991;
Canada, over a third reported stress sur- K.L. Dion & K.K. Dion, 1996). In domains
rounding adolescent boy-girl dating cus- such as educational or occupational goals,
toms; and nearly a fifth were concerned the issue of greater personal choice seems
about free choice marriage based on ro- less likely to be a source of potential con-
mantic love. flict between immigrant parents and their
Within immigrant families, generational teenage or young adult children compared
differences in the perceived desirability of to the domain of dating and marriage (e.g.,
dating and the importance of love as a basis Kurian & Ghosh, 1983). Thus, attitudes to-
for marriage can and do occur. In their sam- ward free association with opposite-sex
ples of Indo-Canadian respondents, Vaidy- peers, romantic love, and the importance of
anathan and Naidoo (1991) found that 80% love as a basis for marriage can be viewed
of second-generation, unmarried young as key indicators of different modes of ac-
adults had a favorable attitude toward dat- culturation. Finally, ethnocultural differ-
ing, as contrasted with only 27.3% of first- ences on attitudes and values pertaining to
generation, predominantly immigrant re- close relationships may be more likely to
spondents (parents of young adults). For occur in societies such as Canada where
the latter group, dating only became ac- there has been structural support (e.g., an
Culture and love 13

official policy of multiculturalism) for eth- ever, some aspects (or types of) psychologi-
nocultural diversity than in societies such as cal individualism make it more difficult to
the United States with traditionally realize these goals. By contrast, in collec-
stronger assimilationist pressures (see K.L. tivistic societies, romantic love is less likely
Dion, 1990, for further discussion of this to be valued as a basis for marriage. At the
issue). psychological level, however, collectivism
facilitates intimacy within the in-group, but
this intimacy is likely to be expressed in a
Psychological Individualism,
complex system of family relationships
Psychological Collectivism,
(K.K. Dion & K.L. Dion, 1993).
and Romantic Love
We have found some support for these
In the preceding sections, we discussed hypotheses. One source of supportive find-
cross-cultural and ethnocultural research ings is from our research on personality and
concerning beliefs about romantic love and romantic love: in particular, self-actualiza-
its perceived importance as a basis for mar- tion and love (K.K. Dion & K.L. Dion,
riage. The evidence we reviewed supports 1985). Self-actualization& a personality di-
our contention that societal individualism mension that reflects individualism (Water-
and collectivism are dimensions of cultural man, 1984).In many respects, self-actualiza-
variation offering a useful theoretical tion is a prototypically individualistic
framework for interpreting these findings. construct, as apparent from the term itself
In most of this cross-cultural and ethnocul- and from the underlyiq assumptions of
tural research, however, individualism and self-actualization and related theories (e.g.,
collectivism have not been independently Maslow, 1970).In our research, self-actuali-
assessed but rather inferred or assumed. zation was measured by Shostroms (1964)
We have used the terms psychological Personal Orientation Inventory, which is
individualism and psychological collec- still considered the best available measure
tivism to refer to individualism and collec- of this construct (Hattie, Hancock, & Bre-
tivism at the personal level, as contrasted reton, 1984). We also distinguished among
with the societal one. This differentiation the ideology of love, the subjective experi-
recognizes that regardless of societal levels ence of love, and feelings about a particular
of individualism and collectivism, there are partner. Accordingly, we included attitude
differences within a given society concern- items to assess beliefs about love, a series of
ing the extent to which individuals person- bipolar ratings of ones love experiences, as
ally endorse prevailing cultural ideals or well as Wessman and Rickss (1966) Love
different ones (Triandis, Leung, Villareal, & and Sex Scale to assess the reported experi-
Clack, 1985). Thus, psychological individu- ence of romantic love, and the Rubin (1970)
alists can be found in collectivisticsocieties, Love Scale to assess reported love and re-
and psychological collectivists can be found lated affect toward a particular partner.
in individualistic societies. Given the likeli- Our findings confirmed the importance
hood of diversity on these dimensions in of making these distinctions. Individuals
changing and/or ethnically heterogeneous scoring high in self-actualization reported a
societies, it is necessary to measure indi- more gratifying love experience than did
vidualism and collectivism at the psycho- those scoring low on this measure. They
logical level rather than to assume it on the also tended to report their experience of
basis of societal levels. love as being less guarded and more in-
We previously have proposed the follow- tense. However, self-actualized individuals
ing paradox. In individualistic societies, ro- reported less love for their partner; in par-
mantic love is valued as an important basis ticular, they scored lower on the caring and
for marriage; and the ideology of romantic need subscales of the Rubin Love Scale
love contributes to expecting a high degree identified by Steck, Levitan, McLane, and
of personal fulfillment in marriage. How- Kelley (1982). In other words, self-actual-
14 K.K. Dion and K.L. Dion

ized people seemed to enjoy the experi- individualism and collectivism (Triandis,
ence of being in love more than did their 1992) and Hatfield and Sprechers (1986)
less self-actualized peers, but the latter measure of Passionate Love, which assesses
seemed to care more for their partner. intensity of attraction to, and affective in-
A similar pattern of findings emerged in volvement with, ones romantic partner. Al-
a recent study in which we directly exam- though small in magnitude, this negative re-
ined the relation between psychological in- lation found by Doherty and his colleagues
dividualism and love (K.K. Dion & K.L. is consistent with our previous finding
Dion, 1991). In that study, psychological in- (K.K. Dion & K.L. Dion, 1991) of a nega-
dividualism and psychological collectivism tive relation between self-contained indi-
were measured by 24 items developed by vidualism and reported love for ones ro-
Breer and Locke (1965) to assess these con- mantic partner, as measured by the Rubin
structs. The items were multidimensional, Love Scale. Interestingly, Hatfield and
with additional analyses yielding two fac- Sprechers (1986) Passionate Love Scale
tors for individualism and collectivism, re- has been found to be highly related to the
spectively.The items in one of these factors, Rubin Love Scale in a,sampk of U.S. uni-
which we labeled as self-contained indi- versity students (Y = .86 for men; Y = .83 for
vidualism, reflected valuing freedom and women). Thus, two independent studies,
self-reliance. Psychological individualism, one conducted in Canada and one in the
especially this self-contained component, United States, using different measures of
was negatively related to affective involve- psychological individualism and different
ment with ones partner, as measured by measures of romanticlpassionafe love have
Rubins Love Scale and its three compo- found a negative relation between psycho-
nents (caring, need, and trust). These find- logical individualism and reported love for
ings were obtained after controlling for the ones partner.
effects of psychological collectivism, as well Findings from a very different cultural
as age and sex of respondent. Psychological context also suggest that some aspects of
individualists were more likely to view individualism may work against developing
love as a game. Moreover, in this sample, intimacy with a romantic partner. Goodwin
self-contained7individualism was associ- (1995) examined the reported willingness
ated with a lower likelihood of ever having to engage in intimate self-disclosure by in-
been in love; and among those who had dividuals from three different social groups
been in love, this type of individualism was (manual workers, entrepreneurs, and stu-
negatively related to characterizing ones dents) in Russia shortly after the dissolu-
experience of romantic love as being ten- tion of the Soviet Union. The entrepreneurs
der, deep, and rewarding. as a group were characterized as being very
We have extended the above paradigm individualistic, especially in highly valuing
to study the relation between psychologi- self-reliance. Respondents were asked to
cal individualism and collectivism, using list off limits topics in relationships of dif-
a more extensive set of items, and atti- fering degrees of intimacy.In Study 2, topics
tudes toward marriage and toward divorce related to sex and love were the most
(K.L. Dion & K.K. Dion, 1994).Psychologi- frequently mentioned category of taboo
cal individualism, specifically self-con- topics. The entrepreneurs and the students
tained individualism, was related to a less reported difficulty when discussing love
positive attitude toward marriage. By con- and sex, particularly in the context of inti-
trast, psychological collectivism was associ- mate relationships (Goodwin, 1995). Al-
ated with a less favorable attitude toward though Goodwins research was conducted
divorce. to test a different conceptual model, one of
In a recent study, Doherty, Hatfield, his major findings is consistent with our
Thompson, and Choo (1994) found a nega- prediction of a negative relation between
tive relation between a 12-item measure of self-contained individualism and inti-
Culture and love 15

macy with a romantic partner-in this case, ceptualize individualism and collectivism
intimate self-disclosure. as different facets of self, rather than con-
trasting attributes, when studying their im-
plications for different forms of personal
Concluding Remarks
relationships. In our research, we have
In summary, the empirical findings pre- found that each of these constructs is mul-
sented in this article clearly support our tidimensional. Our findings suggest that
contention that the dimensions of individu- one component of individualism in particu-
alism and collectivism, respectively-both lar-namely self-contained individual-
at the societal and the psychological lev- ism-is related to variations in reported
els-provide a heuristic framework for love experiences as well as beliefs about
better understanding romantic love. The love and about marriage, which may be
constructs of individualism and collectiv- problematic for fostering intimacy in ro-
ism are, of course, not the only relevant mantic relationships (K.K. Dion & K.L.
cultural dimensions. They do, however, Dion, 1991; K.L. Dion & K.K. Dion, 1994).
provide one starting point. As emphasized Research on romantic love from a cul-
above, it is important to distinguish be- tural perspective has relevance for under-
tween individualism and collectivism at the standing changing norms surrounding insti-
societal and at the personal level, respec- tutions, such as marriage. The search for
tively, when studying their relation to personal growth/fulfillment through mar-
romantic love. Given cultural change, im- riage based-gn romantic love assumes that
migration, and ethnocultural diversity, in- marriage primarily should function to pro-
creasingly there is likely to be heteroge- mote self-development. Given this assump-
neity in the prevalence of psychological tion, if both members of a couple are not
individualism and psychological collectiv- growing together (or at least not hinder-
ism within specific, traditionally individu- ing each others personal growth), the basis
alistic and collectivistic societies. There- for the marriage may be questioned by one
fore, it is important to measure these and or both parties. It is this view of marriage
other related constructs in a particular that some individuals from traditionally
sample rather than to assume their uni- collectivistic societies find distasteful, for it
form presence among individuals within a conflicts with core assumptions about the
given society. Thus, for example, re- relation between self and family. We and
searchers studying personal relationships other scholars have contended that height-
in some Asian societies should not assume ened individualism has contributed to in-
that those taking part in their study, espe- creasing rates of marriage failure and di-
cially if they are university students, are vorce in the United States and Canada in
psychologically collectivistic. As Yang recent decades (Brehm, 1992;Cherlin, 1981;
(1986) suggested, many of these students K.L. Dion & K.K. Dion, 1988; Schwartz,
may now endorse individualistic values as 1988). Furstenberg (1990) commented that
strongly as their Western counterparts in current ideals of marriage in the United
individualistic countries. States virtually demanded divorce if the
The constructs of individualism and col- couple were no longer in love with each
lectivism typically have been conceptual- other.
ized as contrasting poles of a continuum. Recent research indicates increasing di-
The distinction between the relative em- versity in views of the relation between
phasis on the priority of the individual, as love and marriage among young adults
contrasted with the priority of the group, from several different and traditionally col-
highlights important differences that are lectivistic societies (Levine et al., 1995;
important for understanding personal rela- Sprecher et al., 1994). This diversity may
tionships. At the psychological level, how- reflect change in the direction of greater
ever, it may be of heuristic value to con- psychological individualism, notably self-
16 K.K. Dion and K.L. Dion

contained individualism, characterized by chological individualism takes forms other


valuing personal freedom. If so, it remains than self-contained individualism. If so,
to be seen whether young adults in these then individuals from more collectivistic
societies (e.g., Japan, Taiwan) and young cultural traditions who become more indi-
adults whose parents emigrated from tra- vidualistic might show a different pattern
ditionally collectivistic societies to Canada, of relationship-related correlates. Clearly, a
Australia, or the United States show in- cultural perspective raises important and
creasingly high rates of divorce and remar- intriguing questions about the psychology
riage. On the other hand, it is possible that of love and, more generally, about self and
in traditionally collectivistic societies psy- close relationships.

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