Culture and Close Relationships

Together with Dr. Ben C-P Lam and others, Cross has begun to examine close relationships in Chinese cultural contexts from the perspective of specifically Chinese concepts, beliefs, and ways of thinking. In our initial studies, we examined the role of the Chinese notion of filial piety (obedience and care for one’s parents) in close relationships. Our research found that Taiwanese young people are more likely than American young people to prioritize their mother over their spouse in emergency and every-day situations (Wu, Cross, et al., 2916). Lam, Cross and our colleagues have also begun to examine the implications of Chinese patterns of dialectical thinking on close relationships. Dialectical thinking involves three primary components: a) viewing the world holistically, b) acceptance and tolerance of contradiction, and c) a view that the world is constantly changing (Peng & Nisbett, 1995). Applying this framework to close relationships, we have found that Chinese people feel more ambivalently about their romantic partners than do Americans, and we suggest that this is because Chinese people acknowledge and accept that their partners have both positive and negative qualities (consistent with an acceptance of contradictionCross & Lam, in press a)We are investigating other ways that dialecticism influences relationship behavior, such as willingness to change and adapt in relationships and the extent to which individuals organize information about their partners cognitively.

Selected Culture and Close Relationships Publications

Cross, S. E. & Lam, B. C-P. (2018). Dialecticism in close relationships and marriage. In J. Spencer-Rodgers and K. P. Peng, Psychological and Cultural Foundations of Dialectical Thinking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lam, C. P. (2016). Dialectical relationship thinking: Examination of partner evaluation and partner knowledge organization across cultures. (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Lam, B.C-P, Cross, S. E., Wu, T-F., Yeh, K-H., Wang, Y-C., & Su, J. C.(2016). Prototypes of ideal relationships in the US and Taiwan. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42, 703-722.

Wu, T., Cross, S. E., Wu, C., Cho, W., & Tey, S. (2016). Choosing your mother or your spouse: Close relationship dilemmas in Taiwan and the United States. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 47, 558-580.