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Differences between European and Lebanese Americans' values about marriage

Bilal M Ghandour, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Drawing upon the emerging literature that examines differences in values about marriage, this study examined how broader cultural values of western societies, based in individualism, and eastern societies, based in collectivism, shape values about marriage. In comparing the marital value system of European Americans with that of Lebanese or Lebanese-Americans, a theory of cultural identity was utilized. While Americans were expected to value the self-reflective aspect of marriage, which nuclearizes marriage around the husband-wife relationship, the Lebanese were expected to value the familial aspect of marriage, which views the union as a relational entity, the value of which is closely connected to that of the family system. Using a Q sort technique—a method of rank ordering a set of statements about values of interest—two factors were extrapolated, indicating two distinct sets of values regarding marriage. The first cluster of individuals (Factor I) consisted of two thirds of the Americans sample and a quarter of the Lebanese sample. The second cluster (Factor II) consisted of a majority of the Lebanese and a single American participant. As hypothesized, the values highlighted in the first factor, or 'western'-driven factor, focused on romance; the endorsement of physical and psychological intimacy; and the belief that marriage is a private enterprise that only takes account of the marital values of the couple (i.e., 'couple' individualism). Also as hypothesized, the beliefs highlighted by the second factor, or Lebanese factor, focused on values such as psychological intimacy more than physical closeness as well as the importance of family, in particular their own parents, to marriage. Also important to this group was the endorsement of romanticism, particularly the idea of soul mate as marital partner. Demographic characteristics of the Lebanese sample indicated that education was a determining feature for distinguishing factor loadings. Specifically, we found that the Lebanese who loaded on the 'western'-driven factor were significantly more educated than their compatriots who loaded on the 'Lebanese' factor. With regards to gender, both a Q sort and ANOVA analysis found no differences within nationality or between nationalities, disconfirming previous research that American women are more communal (i.e., more 'eastern') than American men; and that women immigrants adopt the host cultures' values more readily than their male counterparts when such country provides more opportunity. Finally, we recommended that the development of a marital quality scale for Arabs in general should include items that reflect the values found in this study to be important to the majority of the Lebanese in addition to the traditionally 'western' items that were found to also be of value to this population.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Ghandour, Bilal M, "Differences between European and Lebanese Americans' values about marriage" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3336947.