Family of Origin Transactions and Marital Adjustment of Caucasian-Asian Couples
Summary and Conclusions



This study is about the relationships between Caucasian-Asian couples' involvement with their respective families of origin and their marital adjustment. "Asian" is used here to refer to Chinese, Japanese, or Korean; "Caucasian" to refer to people of European descent.

The results obtained show that:
  1. the sample group Caucasian-Asian couples are significantly less adjusted in their marriages than Caucasian couples,
  2. the sample couples are significantly more cohesive than Caucasian couples,
  3. the husbands' continued involvement with their families of origin is positively associated with their marital adjustment,
  4. the wives' continued involvement with their families of origin is inversely associated with their marital adjustment,
  5. the sample group have significantly more involvement with their families of origin than the comparison group of Caucasian couples,
  6. the wives in the sample group are significantly more involved with their families of origin than are their husbands with their families of origin,
  7. the wives have more emotional and instrumental supports with their families of origin than have their husbands with their families of origin, and
  8. the sample couples have positive support from their families of origin.
It appears the results of the study cannot be fully explained by the Bowen Theory of Family Systems. The results also do not confirm the theories of clinicians such as Friedman (1982) and Falicov (1986), who posit that intermarried clients tend to have low levels of self-differentiation. Finally, the results do not support previous outcome studies of interracial marriages. The Caucasian-Asian marriages in this study were more cohesive than a comparison group of Caucasian-Caucasian marriages, and their cohesiveness may be associated with the presence of good intergenerational support.

The study suggests that Bowen's theory is based on a male developmental model. It is also a theory which reduces the family into personal psychology and interpersonal relationships (James & McIntyre, 1983). It does not take into acount that we live in a socio-political system which perpetuates the socialization of men and women into different sex-roles and behaviours. This study found that traditional sex-role behaviour in relation to family of origin was correlated for both women and men with poorer marital adjustment, while behaviours which countered traditional gender socialization resulted in better marital adjustment and satisfaction.

For the men, the study shows that continued involvement with the family of origin is positively associated with adjustment in the marriage. This suggets that when men are involved in nurturing activities with their families of origin, such as remembering birthdays and anniversaries, and personally taking care of sick parents, two things may happen for them. Firstly, they develop the capacity for connectedness with other members in their families. This in turn may help them to experience "reciprocal satisfying intimacy" (Beavers, 1985). Secondly, when men are involved with their families of origin, they may assume some of the family responsibilities which would otherwise fall to their wives. Consequently, when men are more involved with their families of origin, they may also establish a closer relationship with their wives. As Miller (1986, p. 83) states, complete "individual development proceeds only by means of connection and affiliation".

The findings also suggest interaction effects between gender and culture for the adjustment of Caucasian-Asian marriages. In particular, the data underscore the remarkable stability of Caucasian-Asian marriages in comparison to Caucasian-Caucasian marriages. It appears that when both husbands and wives in Caucasian-Asian marriages are involved with their respective families of origin, they become more cohesive in their marriages. This marital cohesiveness can help them to withstand a certain degree of stress caused by marital dissatisfaction, lower affective expression, and disconsensus. Moreover, the findings also suggest that the wives' marital satisfaction may be dependent on their husbands assuming still more responsibility for their families of origin which would otherwise fall to their wives. Clearly, emphasis on connectedness with the family of origin for the husbands is more, rather then less, helpful for the total marital adjustment of Caucasian-Asian marriages.


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