Culturally Biased Happiness Research?

by Andrea K

In response to previous, “white” dominated research on the influence of children on marital happiness, a number of researchers have expanded this body of knowledge through cross-cultural studies that employ “nonwhite” participant groups. However, the differences discovered through the comparison of ethnic groups may be due to factors other than culture, which likely limits the extent to which researchers can draw cross-cultural conclusions of the influence of children on marital happiness. Through an examination of such cross-cultural studies, I propose that these potentially-confounding variables include differences in participant groups’ socioeconomic status, education level, age, and display of gender roles. Furthermore, I assert that the research process itself may be biased by researchers’ use of western measurement tools and procedures, as well as by their use of cultural stereotypes.


A final confound to consider in a cross-cultural examination of the influence of children on marital happiness is the researchers’ potential use of cultural stereotypes. The ambiguous and socially malleable nature of terms such as collectivism and individualism can, as asserted earlier, act as organization tools for researchers as they structure the findings of their cross-cultural observations. However, the fluid nature of these terms may also be used by some researchers, consciously or subconsciously, to facilitate cultural stereotypes, which tend to be both non-empirical and based on researcher biases. For example, Wendorf et al. (2011) make an unsupported claim that individualistic cultures, such as the United States, are more “romantic” (p. 342) than collectivistic cultures, such as Japan, who regard romantic behaviour as a “premarital issue” (p. 242). Due to its lack of supporting evidence, this statement may be biased by the personal, cultural experiences of the researchers and one should, therefore, be wary of interpreting this assertion as a significant contribution to the body of cross-cultural research on variables contributing to marital happiness.


Wendorf, C. A., Lucas, T., Imamoglu, E. O., Weisfeld, C. C., & Weisfeld, G. E. (2011). Marital satisfaction across three cultures: Does the number of children have an impact after accounting for other marital demographics? Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(3), 340-354. doi:


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