Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Study on Interracial Couples Finds Link Between Quality Marriages and Racial Identity; Results to be Used in Therapy, Family Programs
Racial Identity found as the strongest predictor of marriage quality in interracial couples
The majority of research involving interracial marriages has tended to focus on comparing interracial couples with same-race couples. Often overlooked, is research examining the inner workings of interracial American couples.
A groundbreaking study conducted by Leigh Leslie and Bethany Letiecq found that racial identity was the strongest predictor of marital quality for African Americans and, to a lesser extent, whites involved in an interracial marriage.
The study examined the following three factors in relation to the quality of interracial marriages: racial identity, social support, and experience of discrimination.
According to the study, partners who had pride in their race but were also accepting of other races and cultures experienced higher marital quality.
Interracial couples are more likely to get a divorce than same-race couples, according to the U.S. Census. The results of this study show that a negative racial identity may contribute to this statistic.
The study was published by the Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research in December 2004.
Since publication, the study has been cited by at least 18 scholarly sources, perhaps due in part to the steady increase in the number of interracial couples in the United States.
In 2008, 14.6% of all new marriages in the United States were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, according to a Pew Research Report.
“…more people are dealing with cross-race perceptions.”
According to Leigh Leslie, one of the lead researchers on the study, research on the subject of interracial couples is important.
“The number of interracial couples is going up… and more people are dealing with cross-race perceptions,” said Leslie in an interview at the University of Maryland.
Interracial marriage was illegal in some states up until as recently as 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned prior rulings and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
In November 2010, there were over 12.5 million multiracial Americans in the U.S.
Findings to aid interracial therapy techniques; family life programs
Leslie says the study has implications for clinicians, since it deals with issues that may need to be brought up and talked about within interracial couples.
The findings could also be used towards family life education, couples therapy, and programs for helping families that are different than the majority, according to Leslie.
“Getting couples to talk about racial identity and pride in race can be good for the relationship,” said Leslie.
Recognizing that things like racial identity are important can help interracial couples tackle miscommunications.
For example, instances where the minority person perceives something as racial prejudice and their spouse does not can cause tension stemming from racial identity. This tension could potentially be avoided with open communication between partners about issues like racial identity, social support, and the experience of discrimination.
University of Maryland student Teresa Rostkowski has been in an interracial relationship for over three years.
"I'd like to think that in most interracial relationships, racial issues don't matter. But having been ridiculed, sneered at, and once even threatened because I am in an interracial relationship, it's important for couples to know how the other feels and reacts to these attitudes that they might encounter," said Rostkowski.
Participants mostly reside in D.C. area, questioned about interactions and emotional processes
The study, titled “Marital quality of African American and white partners in interracial couples” focused on 76 interracial couples.
The purpose of the study, as stated by its lead researchers, was to shed light on factors related to the marital quality of individuals in interracial marriages.
The couples participated in the study by responding to mail surveys, and a majority of the couples were located in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas.
Though some participants were from other parts of the country, Leslie believes that participants in the Washington D.C. area had results that were most likely unique to one of the “most racially integrated, accepting areas in the country”.
The four requirements for participation in the study were as follows:
1. The couple must be married
2. The couple must live together
3. The couple must include one White and one African American partner
4. Both spouses must have grown up in the U.S.
Of the couples, 52 consisted of an African American male and a white female, and 24 consisted of an African American female and a white male.
The researchers recognized that marriages exist in highly complex and multifaceted environments, and chose to study the patterns of interaction between spouses, as well as the cognitive and emotional processes that occur with these interactions.
Participants were asked to respond to a series of questions on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
The average age of the participants was 37.1 years old, while 71.5% of participants reported completing college, and 70.4% reported having children.
Positive Racial Identity and support from friends leads to higher marital quality
If African Americans reported a more positive black identity, they were less likely to report feelings of marital ambivalence.
A trend in the data also revealed that survey participants who perceived higher levels of support from friends about their marriage were less likely to work to maintain their marriage. White females reported receiving significantly more support from friends than African American males did.
"Good relationships take work," said Leslie, who suggests that all couples, not just interracial spouses, do maintenance activities, stay positive, and keep their relationship interesting.
Posted by Christine Jubert at 5:31 PM