(Coleman et al., 2006) there are more significant differences between race and ethnic groups in beliefs about intergenerational assistance than are expected by chance the differences are not large. As expected, White European-Americans perceive that less help should be given to older adults than is true of African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Unexpectedly, European-Americans and Latinos rarely differ in their beliefs about intergenerational assistance. When differences exist among the three minority groups, it is typically because African-Americans and Asian-Americans perceive that more help should be given to older family members than Latinos. The family plays a unique role in forming and sustaining intimate relationships; however, there have been notable changes in the family in the past 50 years. As marriages are being delayed, birth rates are decreasing, and maternal employment, divorce, cohabitation, and births to single mothers are increasing, the course of intimate relationships is becoming more diverse and less stable and predictable. (Hetherington, 2003)
Although marriage has been associated with a number of positive benefits (e.g., health, income, child achievement), it appears that maintaining a marriage is a difficult task for many Americans. Analyses of data from the National Survey of Family Growth revealed that 20% of first marriages end in divorce within 5 years, 33% end within 10 years, and 43% of marriages break up within 15 years of marriage (Bramlett & Mosher, 2001). Although the rates of marital dissolution are high for all ethnic groups, the rates among African-Americans compared with European-Americans are even more pronounced. For example, whereas 32% of European-American marriages end within 10 years, 47% of African-American marriages do so within this same period. Coupled with the high divorce rates among African-Americans is the fact that African-Americans are less likely to enter into marital relationships than are European-Americans, which makes their marriages less normative and more fragile. Thus, marital researchers need to understand marriage within the context of race. (Goodwin, 2003)
As evidenced by marriage and divorce statistics, race definitely appears to affect how one experiences and maintains marriage. However, very few studies have fully explored the effects of race in marriage. The majority of studies on marriage have been conducted using racially homogenous samples consisting mainly of European-Americans from which findings are generalized to the entire American population (Bean, Crane, & Lewis, 2002; McLoyd, Cauce, Takeuchi, & Wilson, 2000). By conducting research on racially homogeneous samples and generalizing the findings, researchers assume that factors explaining European-American marriages are the same as those explaining African-American marriages.
Studies have begun to emerge, however, that suggest that African-Americans may conceptualize marriage differently from European-Americans. For example, Veroff, Douvan, and Hatchett (1995) concluded that "Black couples interpret their marital experiences in the context of their social worlds, their communities and kin, their economic situations, all within a backdrop of institutional racism" (p. xii). Other researchers have also found evidence of the effects of race and ethnicity on marital experiences. For example, Chadiha, Veroff, and Leber (1998) found that African-American couples were more likely to focus on couple relations and religion when interpreting their newlywed experience, whereas European-American couples were more likely to focus attention on achievement and work themes. Researchers have found that factors that appear to be common to both African-American and European-American marriages are often manifested in very different ways. For instance, having a supportive wife was found to be a benefit to the stability of both African-American and European-American marriages. For European-American marriages, however, having a supportive wife meant having a wife who was cooperative, whereas for African-American marriages it meant having a wife who was collaborative (Goodwin, 2003; Orbuch, Veroff, & Hunter, 1999).
From comparative studies, we know that African-Americans consistently evaluate their marriages less positively than their European-American counterparts. (Goodwin, 2003) We also know from numerous studies on marital instability what some of the antecedents of divorce are. Missing from the literature is research that examines the factors related to sustaining positive and satisfying marriages within the context of race. Thus, the goal of the current study is to examine the predictors of marital well-being for both African-American and European-American women. Researchers have recommended that the construct of marital well-being include global and evaluative judgments and that the items be conceptually distinct. (Crohan & Veroff, 1989).
After marital disruption, however, per capita income is dramatically higher than pre-disruption levels for all subgroups of men and lower than pre-disruption levels for women, consistent with prior research. For example, per capita income rises from $9,700 to $15,000 for white men, from $5,200 to $7,600 for blacks, and from $8,300 to $10,300 for Hispanics. Among women, per capita income declines from $10,600 to $9,100 for whites, from $5,500 to $4,200 for blacks and from $8,200 to $6,800 for Hispanics. Analysis of changes at the individual level yields similar patterns. On average, men experience substantial increases in per capita income upon marital disruption, ranging from 18% for Hispanic men to 61% for white men. Women uniformly experience substantial decreases; white and Hispanic women experience declines of about 20% and black women of about 35%. (Smock, 1994)
In culturally diverse societies, there is pervasive evidence of assimilation over time in achieved statuses of the descendants of different ethnic groups. Indeed, immigrant assimilation is sometimes seen as the final stage of a process of cross-cultural contact and accommodation. It is also evident that different cultures, and especially different religions, inculcate distinctive attitudes towards marriage, the family, and divorce. So one can expect the divorce behavior of partners in ethnically mixed marriages to reflect the interplay of divergent cultural norms. Assimilation theory does not; predict whether the norms of one group will prevail over those of another, or whether both will have some effect. The first expectation would lead to a cultural dominance model, and the latter to a convergence model in which the probability of divorce reflected differences in-group preferences for divorce. (Jones, 1996)
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Chadiha, L.A., Veroff, J., & Leber, D. (1998). Newlywed's narrative themes: Meaning in the first year of marriage for African-American and White couples. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 29, 115-130.
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Hetherington, M.E. (2003, October). Intimate Pathways: Changing Patterns in Close Personal Relationships Across Time. Family Relations, 52(4), p.318.
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