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Comparison of Happiness in Arranged and Autonomous Marriages

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Abstract

Very little in the way of actual studies on the perceptions of arranged marriages have been done. The current study proposes to explore that comparison of marital happiness—that is, when placed side by side with a set of predictors for marital happiness, how do arranged marriages and autonomous marriages compare at 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, and 50 years. Participants in this study were 168 couples that had been married for a duration of between 1 year to 50 years. Despite the limitations in the study, it is expected this study will find that arranged marriages show an increase and then plateauing consistency of predictors of marital happiness from the 10-year mark forward
Comparison of Happiness in Arranged and Autonomous Marriages
Bishop Harber
Angelo State University
RUNNING HEAD: Comparing Arranged and Autonomous Marriages
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Abstract
Very little in the way of actual studies on the perceptions of arranged marriages have
been done. The current study proposes to explore that comparison of marital happiness—that is,
when placed side by side with a set of predictors for marital happiness, how do arranged
marriages and autonomous marriages compare at 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years,
and 50 years. Participants in this study were 168 couples that had been married for a duration of
between 1 year to 50 years. Despite the limitations in the study, it is expected this study will find
that arranged marriages show an increase and then plateauing consistency of predictors of
marital happiness from the 10-year mark forward.
RUNNING HEAD: Comparing Arranged and Autonomous Marriages
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Comparison of Happiness in Arranged and Autonomous Marriages
Very little in the way of actual studies on the perceptions of arranged marriages have
been done, yet the claim that traditional arranged marriages to be on the rise in the West continue
to be made (Angier, 2013). The colloquial assumption appears to be that arranged marriages
cannot possibly have the same level of happiness as an autonomous marriage simply due to the
lack of spousal choice in the former marriage type. The current study proposes to explore that
comparison of marital happiness—that is, when placed side by side with a set of predictors for
marital happiness, how do arranged marriages and autonomous marriages compare at 1 year, 5
years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, and 50 years—and then, following Epstein, Pandit, and
Thakar (2013), predicts that arranged marriages will show an increase and then plateauing
consistency of marital happiness throughout the study as opposed to autonomous marriages that
will show the traditional horseshoe shape of high emotional intensity followed by a decrease
during the first ten years (Kurdek, 1999) and then a possible increase yet some years later again.
Epstein, Pandit, and Thakar (2013) found that culture and affluence play a large role in
the long-term success and perception of marital happiness in arranged marriages, yet other
studies have found that caste or level of affluence, occupation, and even age at time of marriage
have little impact (Allendorf & Ghimire, 2013).
The factors of a long-term marriage that lead to success and martial happiness, though,
appear to be similar among both autonomous marriages and arranged marriages. From a review
of available studies, various studies appear to find certain qualities hold different emphasis
between the two types of marriage. Bachand and Caron (2001) determined in their own study
that “friendship, love, and similar backgrounds or interests” (p.105) were the three primary
factors that long-term marriages all indicated as crucial to success.
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For this study, the common themes from Billingsley, Lim, Caron, Harris, and Canada
(2005) will be used that include “permanence of relationship, love, sex, compatibility in
personality, common interests, communication, decision-making, intimacy, and religion” in
order to determine primary predictors for marital happiness. These tie directly into the
maintenance strategies of Canary, Stafford, and Semic (2002). These are defined as “positivity,
openness, assurances, social networks, and sharing tasks” (Canary, Stafford, & Semic, 2002, p.
395). While they also discuss an additional dimension of “fundamental relationship
characteristics [defined as] liking, commitment, and control mutuality” (Canary, Stafford, &
Semic, 2002, p. 395), these seem to be redundant to elements already found in Billingsley, Lim,
Caron, Harris, and Canada (2005).
In the examination of autonomous marriages, there also appears the notion of separating
personality from culture, relying on the personality traits of the individual to make the match
whereas with arranged marriages personality remains within culture to the extent that personality
is subservient to and often submerged under culture (Markus, 2004). The difference in cultural
understanding or approach to specific traits associated with martial happiness could provide
evidence that marital happiness is a matter of cultural perspective of those traits rather than the
traits independent of the marital arrangement. This is supported by Larson and Holman (1994) in
their own conclusion that personality variables where secondary to background considerations
and “that personality traits and couple interpersonal processes” (p. 232) are both important to
marital success.
Billingsley, Lim, Caron, Harris, and Canada (2005) is a review of various studies done
toward exploring the criteria for marital and family success. Starting with research from the
1950s and ending in the early 2000s, these researchers have provided the criteria used to measure
both marital success as well as the commonalities between those marriages that endured or what
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they call “long-term, enduring relationships” (Billingsley, Lim, Caron, Harris, & Canada, 2005,
p. 7). Consolidated, Billingsley, Lim, Caron, Harris, and Canada (2005) narrowed down nine
areas of commonality among all the studies that could be ascertained ranging from permanence
of relationship to love to religion (p. 7).
Methods
Participants
Participants in this study were 168 heterosexual couples that had been married for a
duration of between 1 year to 50 years who will participate in a study of happiness predictors
throughout their marriage. This was the only marriage for all couples. The age at marriage for the
wives ranged from 18 to 24. The age at marriage for husbands ranged from 19 to 26.
Data will be gathered from six groups of participants: Those couples at the end of the first
year of marriage (Group 1); those couples which have been married for 5 years (Group 2); those
couples which have been married for 10 years (Group 3); those couples which have been married
for 20 years (Group 4); those couples which have been married for 30 years (Group 5); and those
couples which have been married for 50 years (Group 6).
Four hundred eligible newlywed couples were identified through marriage license records
available through appropriate legal channels in Philadelphia, London, New Delhi, Jerusalem, and
Tokyo. Of the eligible couples, 168 (42%) chose to participate in the project. Those who
declined participation in the study primarily gave insufficient time and lack of interest as reasons
for refusal of participation. Of all marriages in the research project, 74 (44%) are considered
arranged marriages, and the other 94 (56%) are considered autonomous marriages.
No compensation will be given for participation in the research study itself.
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Measures
Descriptive Data. A questionnaire requesting information about each participant’s gender
identity, racial identity, age, marital identification, level of education, religious worldview, and
political affiliation will be administered to participants. Information will be used to compare data
of each individual within a pairing as well as combined data of each couple in relation to the
participant pool.
Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale. The Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale (RDAS) is a
self-report questionnaire to measure three of a relationship: consensus, satisfaction, and
cohesion. The RDAS includes 14 items, on a 5- or 6-point Likert-type scale, each of which asks
the respondents to rate certain aspects of her/his relationship ranging from agreement and
disagreement in various areas of concern to discussions of difficulty and finally activities and
discussions. The RDAS reports a Cronbach’s alpha of .90 (Busby, Christensen, Crane, & Larson,
1995).
Investment Model Scale. The Investment Model Scale (IMS) is a complex, 29-item self-
report questionnaire that measures four constructs of a relationship: commitment, relationship
satisfaction, quality of alternatives, and investment size with a 4-point Likert-type scale ranging
from Don’t Agree at All to Agree Completely on individual facets such as “My relationship is
close to ideal” and My partner and I share many memories” as well as a 9-point Likert-type scale
ranging from 0 (Not at All) to 8 (Completely) with prompts for global items such as “Our
relationship makes me very happy” and “My needs for intimacy, companionship, etc., could
easily be fulfilled in an alternative relationship.” The internal consistency reliabilities for the 4
categories range from .84 to .95 (Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998).
Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships. The Personal Assessment of Intimacy
in Relationships (PAIR) scale is a 36-item measure of emotional, social, sexual, intellectual, and
RUNNING HEAD: Comparing Arranged and Autonomous Marriages
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recreational intimacy on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5
(Strongly Agree). Prompts provided include items such as “My partner listens to me when I need
someone to talk to,” “I am able to tell my partner when I want sexual intercourse,” “I don’t think
anyone could possibly be happier than my partner and I when we are with one another,” and “I
have some needs that are not being met by my relationship.” There is an internal reliability of at
least .70 on all aspects of the measure (Schaefer & Olson, 1981).
Trust in Close Relationships. The Trust in Close Relationships scale is a 17-item measure
based on a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from -3 (Strongly Disagree) to 0 (Neutral) to 3
(Strongly Agree) in three categories of predictability, dependability, and faith. Prompts include,
“My partner has proven to be trustworthy and I am willing to let him/her engage in activities
which other partners find too threatening,” “I feel very uncomfortable when my partner has to
make decisions which will affect me personally,” and “When I am with my partner, I feel secure
in facing unknown new situations.” The Trust in Close Relationships scale reports a Cronbach’s
alpha of .81 (Rempel, Holmes, & Zanna, 1985).
Procedures
Each participant within the selected groups will be given an informed consent form,
which all participants will fill out prior to the administration of the questionnaires, in which they
acknowledge their understanding of the process, the nature and purpose of the study, and assured
of the anonymity of their responses and participation in any resultant case studies and publication
of the study.
The participants will be provided a set of questionnaires: demographic data sheet,
Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale, Investment Model Scale, Personal Assessment of Intimacy in
Relationships scale, and Trust in Close Relationships scale.
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Discussion
The present study is designed to compare predictors of marital happiness between
autonomous and arranged marriages over the span of a lifetime.
Limitations. Several limitations to this study could be addressed in future approaches to
the subject matter. As noted by Canary, Stafford, and Semic (2002), one of the deficiencies in
marriage studies is the lack of longitudinal data itself that includes the examination of the ability
of marriage “to change with life course events” (p. 405). Since each marriage is different,
understanding how that marriage specifically survived for twenty, thirty, or even fifty years may
be in the resiliency factors found within exploring a set of couples, both in autonomous and
arranged marriages, over a longitudinal study.
Likewise, the assumption brought to this study is that arranged marriages are defined by a
healthy family or cultural tradition. There are multiple additional types of marriages that could
be considered arranged (dating services, family matchmakers, forced/slavery, etc) that are not
included in this study. Such pathological norms would certainly change the expected outcomes.
Also, hybrid arranged marriages as identified by Allendorf and Ghimire (2013) is a field of
exploration of these same predictors in showing how any autonomy of choice in an arranged
marriage may alter expected outcomes.
Expected Conclusions. Despite the limitations here, it is expected this study will find that
arranged marriages show an increase and then plateauing consistency of predictors of marital
happiness from the 10-year mark forward. Another expectation is that divorce is less for
arranged marriages and autonomous marriages during the entire span of marriages interviewed.
RUNNING HEAD: Comparing Arranged and Autonomous Marriages
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References
Allendorf, K., & Ghimire, D. (2013). Determinants of marital quality in an arranged marriage
society. Social Science Research, 42(1), 59-70.
Angier, N. (2013, November 25). The Changing American Family. Retrieved November 2018,
from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/health/families.html
Bachand, L. L., & Caron, S. L. (2001, March). Ties that bind: A qualitative study of happy long-
term marriages. Contemporary Family Therapy, 23(1), 105-121.
Billingsley, S., Lim, M.-G., Caron, J., Harris, A., & Canada, R. (2005). Historical overview of
criteria for marital and family success. Family Therapy, 32(1).
Busby, D. M., Christensen, C., Crane, D. R., & Larson, J. H. (1995). A revision of the dyadic
adjustment scale for use with distressed and nondistressed couples: Construct hierarchy
and multidimensional scales. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 21(3), 289-308.
Canary, D. J., Stafford, L., & Semic, B. A. (2002, May). A panel study of the associations
between maintenance strategies and relational characteristics. Journal of Marriage and
Fanily, 64, 395-406.
Epstein, R., Pandit, M., & Thakar, M. (2013, May-June). How love emerges in arranged
marriages: Two cross-cultural studies. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 44(3),
341-360.
Kurdek, L. A. (1999). The nature and predictors of the trajectory of change in marital quality for
husbands and wives over the first 10 years of marriage. Developmental Psychology,
35(5), 1283-1296.
Larson, J. H., & Holman, T. B. (1994, April). Premarital predictors of marital quality and
stability. Family Relations, 43, 228-237.
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Markus, H. R. (2004, February). Culture and personality: Brief for an arranged marriage. Journal
of Research in Personality, 38(1), 75-83.
Rempel, J. K., Holmes, J. G., & Zanna, M. P. (1985). Trust in close relationships. Journal of
Research in Personality, 49.
Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The Investment Model Scale: Measuring
commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size.
Personal Relationships, 5, 357-391.
Schaefer, M. T., & Olson, D. H. (1981). Assessing intimacy: The PAIR Inventory. Journal of
Marital and Family Therapy, 1, 47-60.
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