The effect of arguing on marital closeness in the US and India Shannon A. Corkery , Ashley K. Randall , Deepti Duggi , Valerie J. Young , Shanmukh V. Kamble , & 1 Emily A. Butler 1
1=University of Arizona, 2=Karnatak University, India
Abstract A majority of relationship theories postulate that conflict is a natural and important factor in resolving disagreements and building closeness within intimate relationships. Arguing, however, is inherently individualistic and may not contribute to intimacy in couples from more collectivistic cultures (Sandhya, 2009). To investigate this we collected daily diary reports of arguments and relationship closeness from married couples in the United States (N = 20 couples) and India (N = 20). As predicted, American couples reported higher frequency and intensity of arguing. At low levels of arguing, Indian couples reported greater closeness than the U.S. couples. At higher levels of arguing, U.S. couples reported increased levels of closeness and no longer differed from Indians’ closeness. These findings are in accord with relationship theories which suggest that conflict, embedded in a European American cultural context, can bring a couple closer.
Participants 40 male/female dyads (20 from the US, 20 from India) U.S. Sample: 20 couples, age (M = 44.82 yrs, SD = 10.01), relationship length (M = 14.19 yrs, SD = 8.12) India Sample: 20 couples, age (M = 35.47 yrs, SD = 7.71), relationship length (M = 9.97 yrs, SD = 8.02) Procedure Participants from the U.S. completed a 7day online diary survey; Indian participants completed a 7day paper survey. Measures Selfreported closeness: For each daily survey, participants responded to how close they felt to the partner by circling one of the following: 1 2 3 4
Hypothesis 2: Supported (See Figure 2) As predicted, a significant interaction was found between country and arguing, F(1,419) = 4.97, p <.05. At low levels of arguing, Indian couples reported greater levels of closeness than US couples. At higher levels of arguing, US couples reported increased levels of closeness making them no longer differ from Indians’ closeness .
Background Self reported arguing: For each daily survey, participants responded to “Have you had an argument or disagreement with your partner?” on a 0 to 4 scale where 0 = “no,” 1 = “yes, a very minor one,” 2 = “yes, a small one,” 3 = “yes, a moderate one,” and 4 = “yes, a large one.”
Some research suggests that conflict may be a stable and necessary feature of western marital relationships (McGonagle, Kessler, and Schilling, 1992). Conflict can likely generate increased feelings of closeness because arguing, often occurs as a pursuit toward fulfillment of marital intimacy, a strong western value.
We used a crosscultural sample from the US (western individualistic) and India (easterncollectivistic) to examine the 150 interplay of daily conflict and marital closeness as it occurs in a couple’s natural living environment.
(H1) US couples will report higher frequency of arguing. (H2) Conflict (operationalized as frequency of arguing) will be 50 associated with higher closeness in US couples. Conflict in Indian couples will be associated with lower levels of closeness.
Frequency of argue with partner today
Frequency of argue with partner today
On the other hand, research on collectivistic cultures suggests that intimacy may not be a necessary feature of marital Hypothesis 1: Supported (see Figure 1) relationships (Shweder, 1991). Conflict, American couples reported higher frequency and intensity of arguing Frequency and Intensity of reports of daily arguing in US and Indian couples contrary to its’ intimacy generating role compared to Indian couples. (US: t(419) = 2.23, p<.05)(India: t(419) = in western relationships, may be an indicator Frequency and Intensity of reports of daily arguing in US and Indian couples 4.03, p < .001). of intimacy due to collectivistic values that restrict engagement in country 200 conflict unless already very close. country 200 0= India 1= United States
Conclusions and Implications We conclude that culture plays a significant role in the frequency, interpretation, and outcomes of arguing for married couples. We suspect that couples’ reports of closeness on days when they argue is affected by their cultural interpretation of the efficacy of arguing.
0 = no 1 = yes, a very minor one 2 = yes, a small one 3 = yes, a moderate one 4 = yes a large one
1Argued with 2 partner?3
With widespread globalization rapidly occurring, it is becoming increasingly necessary to recognize the role that cultural differences play in regard to individuals and relationships. By taking a cultural perspective, we can foster an understanding and appreciation of the variety and heterogeneity of relational mechanisms that influence interactions.
Argue with partner today (intensity)?
Figure 1. Frequency and intensity of arguing in US and Indian couples across the 7 days
Figure 2. The effect of arguing on marital closeness in the United States and India
Argued with partner?
The authors acknowledge funding from the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families.