Running Head: MEXICAN AND EUROPEAN AMERICAN RELATIONSHIP STYLES

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Oct 28, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
1

Running Head: MEXICAN AND EUROPEAN AMERICAN RELATIONSHIP STYLES




Relationship
Styles
of
Self
-
focused
Autonomy
,
Other
-
focused
Connection
, and
Mutuality
among

Mexican American and European American
College Students


Kristin D.
Neff

Kalina M. Brabeck

Lisa K
. Kearney


The University of Texas at Austin



Corresponding Author:

Kristin D.
Neff

Educational Psychology Dept.

University of Texas at Austin

1 University Station, D5800

Austin, TX 78712

(512) 471
-
0382

e
-
mail: kristin.
neff
@mail.utexas.edu





European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
2

Abstrac
t


This study examined relationship styles of self
-
focused autonomy (SFA), other
-
focused
connectedness (OFC), and mutuality among 415 European and Mexican American young adults

in
college
. Mutuality was the most commonly reported style for both ethnic gro
ups, though Mexican
American males were more likely than others to indicate that they had the SFA style. When
examining participants’ perceptions of their parents’ styles, fathers of Mexican Americans were
also described as SFA more often than others. Mu
tuality
was associated with

the best mental
health outcomes regardless of gender or ethnicity. Results
highlight the complexity of cultural
influences on autonomy and connectedness and
suggest
s

that collectivistic cultural contexts may
sometimes emph
asize
autonomy concerns for men
.



KEYWORDS:
Cross
-
Cul
tural Studies
,
Couple

Relationships,
Gender Differences, Psychological
Adjustment
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
3

Relationship Styles of Self
-
Focused Autonomy, Other
-
Focused Connection, and Mutuality among
Mexican American and European Ame
rican Young Adults


Concerns with autonomy and connectedness are often conceptualized as opposing
orientations toward the social world, and have been linked to cultural (Markus & Kitayama, 1991;
Markus, Mullally & Kitayama, 1997; Triandis, 1990) and gender

differences in concepts of self
(Cross & Madson, 1997). Autonomy concerns focus on independence, separateness, and personal
prerogative, while connectedness concerns focus on interdependence, togetherness, and the
responsibility to meet the wants and need
s of others. Recently, however, many theorists have
argued that concerns with autonomy and connectedness should be conceptualized as mutually
supportive rather than as bi
-
polar opposites (Deci & Ryan, 1995; Guisinger & Blatt, 1994), and
that the integratio
n of both concerns is necessary for healthy psychological functioning (Blatt,
1995; Ryan, 1991).

A series of studies by
Neff

and Harter (Harter et al., 1997;
Neff

& Harter, 2002, 2003)
supporting this point of view
has

examined three distinct ways of int
eracting with a partner in
romantic relationships: self
-
focused autonomy (SFA), an overemphasis on autonomy at the
expense of connection; other
-
focused connection (OFC), an overemphasis on connection at the
expense of autonomy; and mutuality, a balanced in
tegration of concerns with autonomy and
connection. Individuals with a SFA relationship style tend to emphasize the self's needs and
feelings and have a strong sense of separateness from their partner. Those with an OFC style tend
to emphasize the other’s
needs and feelings and are often preoccupied with the relationship. I
n
contrast, individuals with a M
utual style try to balance concerns with the self’s and other’s needs
and feelings, and to maintain both separate space and closeness in the relationship.
1

These studies
have found that about two
-
thirds to three
-
fourths of individuals tend to report having a mutual
style, while a much smaller number report adopting styles which over
-
emp
hasize autonomy or
connection.
A similarly

high prevalence of mutuality h
as been found
among

older adults
(Harter et
al., 1997;
Neff

& Harter, 2002)
and young

adults in college

(
Neff

& Harter, 2003)
,
with

no

ge
nder
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
4

differences in styles
observed
.

Moreover, those with the
Mutual style
tend to report the greatest
mental health i
n terms of relationship satisfaction, perceived validation (feeling accepted for who
one is

by one’s partner
), voice (the ability to express one's opinions

to one’s partner
), authenticity,
self
-
worth, and less depression in
the relationship
compar
ed

to tho
se with the unbalanced styles.
They are also more likely to report that their relationship style feels like an expression of their
“true self,” especially when compared to those adopting the OFC style
.

One limitation of this line of research is that it has

primarily examined the relationship
styles of European Americans. Given the large amount of theory and research suggesting that
collectivistic cultural contexts tend to foster a more connected sense of self than that found in
individualistic

European Ame
rican

cultural settings (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, 1990),
an interesting question concerns whether or not the prevalence rates, perceived authenticity, and
mental health consequences of the three relationship styles might differ among individuals
from a
more collectivistic cultural background. In order to explore this issue, the current study examined
the relationship styles of SFA, OFC, and mutuality and their associated psychological outcomes in
a

sample of Mexican American

a
nd European American

young adult
s
.
A

young adult population

was chosen because
an additional aim of the study was to examine the relative influence of
parental relationship styles and cultural membership on the
self’s

style.

Culture and relationship interactions
. Mexican Ame
rican culture is often described as
more collectivistic and interdependent than European American culture (Freeberg & Stein, 1996,
Gaines et al., 1
997; Rhee, Uleman, & Lee, 1996)

due to cultural values such as
familismo
,
personalismo,

and
respeto
.
Familism
o

includes placing the family ahead of individual interests,
living near extended family, making collective decisions that involve one or more members of the
family, and feeling responsible and obligated to the family (Falicov, 1998; Marín & Marín, 1991).
Personalismo
involves the building and valuing of interpersonal relationships (Santiago
-
Rivera,
Arredondo, & Gallardo
-
Cooper, 2002), while
respeto

refers to the high regard that exists among
family and community members, especially for authority figures an
d the elderly (Arredondo, et
al., 1996). Research suggests that Mexican Americans tend to be strongly attached to their families
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
5

with strong feelings of reciprocity, loyalty, and solidarity (Falicov, 1998; Santiago
-
Rivera et al.,
2002), with psychological
well
-
being related to family closeness (Raymond & Rhoads, 1980). For
these reasons, one might argue that an OFC relationship style would be more common among
Mexican Americans than European Americans, that it would provide them with better mental
health ou
tcomes, and that it would tend to be experienced as authentic more often because it is
more congruent with an interdependent self concept.

There are several reasons why we did not make this prediction, however. First,
scholars
are increasingly recognizin
g that individualistic and collectivistic orientations toward the social
world often co
-
exist both within cultures and within individuals

(Killen, 1997;
Neff
, 2003). For
example, a recent meta
-
analysis of cross
-
cultural studies of individualism and collect
ivism
conducted by Oyserman, Coon, and Kemmelmeier (2002) found that cultural differences in
individualism and collectivism are not as large or meaningful as is often perceived, and that
similarities between cultures tend to outweigh distinctions

(see also

Matsumoto, Grissom, & Dinnel,
2001)
. (Interestingly, the meta
-
analysis also found that Latino Americans did not differ from
European Americans on the dimension of individualism, although
Latinos

were higher on the
dimension of collectivism.)

Similarly, ex
pansions on the individualism
-
collectivism framework
such as those proposed by Kagitcibasi (1996) argue that historically interdependent cultures that
have recently become urbanized may simultaneously promote
interpersonal

relatedness

and
instrumental auto
nomy
, so that an “autonomous relational” self
-
construal emerges.

If the tendency
to integrate concerns with autonomy and connectedness is a
widespread

phenomenon (
Deci &
Ryan, 1995;
Guisinger & Blatt, 1994), mutuality may be the norm for both Mexican Ameri
cans
and European Americans, and be associated with the most authenticity and best mental health
outcomes for both groups. In support of this idea, it has been found that mutuality in relationships
(defined as empathy, communication, understanding, and mu
tual respect) tends to lessen the
occurrence of wife abuse among Latino American couples (Perilla, Bakerman, & Norris, 1994).

Gender, culture, and relationship interactions
.
A sometimes overlooked

aspect of cultural
complexity stems from the fact that an
individual’s emphasis on autonomy or connectedness in
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
6

relationships is impacted by cultural norms of gender hierarchy (Turiel, 2002). For example,
Neff

(2001) examined reasoning about spousal conflicts among Hindu Indians


often considered a
prototypicall
y collectivistic culture (Shweder, Mahapatra & Miller, 1987)
-

and found that
personal prerogative was emphasized more often for husbands, while meeting the needs of others
was emphasized more often for wives.

Similar findings were obtained by Wainryb and
Turiel
(1994) among Druze Arabs.

These
studies

suggest that those who have dominant status

in a
hierarchically organized collectivistic social setting may

tend to focus on autonomy given the
greater rights afforded by their social position
, reflecting the

“vertical” dimension of collectivism

proposed by Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk and Gelfand (1995
). It is possible that hierarchical
gender role norms might mediate the relationship between culture and relationship styles for
Mexican Americans, given that dom
inance within relationships has been associated with the SFA
style, equality with mutuality, and subordination with the OFC style (
Neff

& Harter, 2002, 2003).

Many suggest that gender roles in Mexican American culture tend to be more traditional
than those

found among European Americans (Pugh & Vasquez
-
Nuttal, 1983), dictating that
males should be superior and independent, while females should be passive, compliant and
responsive to others (Perilla, 1999). Within the traditional Mexican American family, the

father is
the main provider, protector, and authority figure, while the mother is in charge of caring for the
children, supporting her husband, and keeping the family together (Lijtmaer, 1998; Santiago
-
Rivera et al., 2002). Gender
-
role socialization start
s early, and boys in
traditional
Mexican
American families
tend to be given more resources and

freedom than girls (Perilla, 1999).
Traditional gender roles are reproduced and reinforced through the cultural script of
machismo
,
which demands that a man be a
ssertive, hyper
-
masculine and physically powerful (Roschelle,
1999).
Marianismo

is the female correlate to the male script of machismo, dictating that women
should be sexually pure, self
-
sacrificing, and deferent to others’ needs (Gil & Vasquez, 1996;
Lope
z
-
Baez, 1999; McLoyd, Cauce, Takeuchi, & Wilson, 2000). There is also empirical evidence,
including studies with college
-
age populations (Gonzalez, 1982; Strong, McQuillen, & Hughey,
1994), indicating that Latino Americans are also less egalitarian in thei
r gender
-
role attitudes than
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
7

European Americans (Harris & Firestone, 1998, Wilkie, 1993). In light of these gender role
norms one might surmise that Mexican American men might be more likely to emphasize
autonomy in relationships than European American me
n, whereas Mexican American women
might be more likely to emphasize connectedness than European American women. If so, the
authenticity and mental health associates of autonomy and connectedness might be better when
these styles are gender
-
congruent
.

Accul
turation and relationship interactions
. An additional

factor that may impact the
relationship interactions of Mexican American men and women is acculturation
, a process
by
which immigrant groups gradually adopt the

norms and customs of
their host culture (
Chun
& Organista, 2003)
.

Acculturation is thought to affect the traditional family structure
, and s
ome
researchers (e.g., Garza & Gallegos, 1985; Gil, Wagner, & Vega, 2000)
have
hypothesize
d

that
familistic behavior decreases as Mexican American families a
cculturate, urbanize, and migrate.
However, this process is not clear
-
cut or straightforward. Researchers such as Griffith and
Villaviencio (1985) suggest that the extended family system actually becomes better integrated in
later generations as compared
with first generation immigrants because of the increased number of
family members. Also, while some researchers have found that certain aspects of
familismo

change with the process of acculturation
-

such as a decrease in perceptions of family obligations

(Sabogal, Marin, & Otero
-
Sabogal, 1987)


others have found that the internal structure of the
family and attitudes toward the family do not generally differ throughout generations (Repack,
1997; Shaull & Gramann, 1998).

Research indicates that

gender ro
le norms among Mexican American couples
are often

impacted by acculturation processes
, however
. For example, Kranau, Green, and Valencia
-
Weber
(1982) found that highly acculturated Mexican American women were more likely to have liberal
attitudes toward th
e roles of women and less likely to engage in feminine sex
-
typed behaviors than
less acculturated Mexican American women. Similarly, Taylor, Tucker, & Mitchell
-
Kernan (1999)
found that less acculturated Mexican Americans were more likely to endorse the bel
ief that men
should be responsible for making economic provisions and decisions for the family.
Thus, it
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
8

appears that acculturation may alter some aspects of Mexican American relationship interactions
but not others. For this reason, it is unclear whether

or not less acculturated Mexican Americans
would show different relational patterns than more acculturated Mexican Americans, (e.g., a
greater emphasis on autonomy for males and connectedness for females, or a greater emphasis on
connectedness for both).

The influence of parents’ relationship styles on the self’s style
. Another factor related to
acculturation is the generational transmission of relationship styles. Many psychologists have
argued that children tend to identify with their same
-
sex parent a
nd model their adult relationship
behavior on that observed in their mother or father while growing up (Chodorow, 1989; Fagot &
Leinbach, 1987). In fact, this is one of the primary ways in which culture is said to be transmitted


through observations of p
arental behaviors by children (
Keller, 2003
; Rogoff, 2003
).

As
discussed, however, it is unclear to what extent generational continuity versus change exists in the
relationship styles of Mexican
-
American family members. An interesting question, therefore,

is
the extent to which an individual’s own relationship style tends to match that observed in the
same
-
sex parent.

The present study
. The present study was designed to investigate these issues by examining
how Mexican American and European American

young

adults
balance concerns with autonomy
and connectedness in their romantic relationships. Participants were asked to indicate their
typical

relationship style, and whether or not their style felt authentic. The degree of psychological health
that particip
ants experienced within their relationship also
was
assessed. It was hypothesized that
the large majority of Mexican Americans and European Americans would report that they had a
mutual relationship style, that mutuality would most often be experienced as
authentic by both
cultural groups, and that it would also be associated with the best mental health outcomes.
However, we hypothesized that if there were ethnic group differences they would tend to interact
with gender, with a greater prevalence of the SF
A style being reported by Mexican American men
and a greater prevalence of the OFC style being reported by Mexican American women. Because
we were also interested in examining the relative influence of parental relationship styles on the
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
9

self’s style, the
current study was conducted with young adults in college. The college years are
an important transitional period in which parental influence is still strong but newly independent
life patterns are also being formed (
Arnett, 2000;
Steinberg & Silverberg, 1
986
), and for this
reason college students were an appropriate group in which to investigate potential parental
influences on relationship style adoption. (Note that the study examined individual’s
perceptions

of parental styles rather than trying to obtai
n self
-
reports from parents themselves, as we felt this
would be most relevant in terms of understanding how observations of parental relationship
interactions might impact the self’s relationship style.)
We expected that individuals’
relationship styles
would be associated with those observed in same
-
sex parents.
We also
expected that
similar
cross
-
cultural differences in the distribution
of relationship styles
would be
found in both

parental styles

and self styles
.

Finally, in order to examine the possib
le influence of acculturation on relationship style
among Mexican Americans, we surveyed participants from two different cultural milieus.
One
group of Mexican American participants was recruited from a Texas university on the border of
Mexico with an almo
st entirely Mexican American study body. A second group was recruited
from the same setting as the European Americans
-

a
university

located in inland Texas which has
a predominately European American student body. This technique allowed us to sample Mex
ican
Americ
an youths with

various

acculturation levels.

No hypotheses were advanced concerning
the impact of acculturation on relationship styles
, however,

given conflicting research
findings on
the impact of acculturation on relationship i
nteractions; thi
s aspect of the study
was considered exploratory.

We also examined participants’ income level to avoid possible
confounds with culture
. Because

wealth is sometimes associated with individualistic values
even within collectivistic
societies (Hofstede, 1980
)
, we wanted
to determine if

relational
patterns were similar among both lower and higher income Mexican Americans before
making cross
-
cultural comparisons with European Americans
.

Methods

Participants

European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
10

A total of 469 Mexican American and European American

undergraduates were recruited
for this study, but 54 of these participants were excluded because they indicated that they had not
yet been in a serious relationship (and were thus instructed not to complete the survey). Thus, 415
participants were include
d in the current study, with similar numbers of Mexican American (
n

=
202) and European American (
n

= 213) participants.
All of the European Americans were enrolled
at a central Texas university (where the student body is 64% European American and 14%
Mexi
can American). Forty
-
three percent of th
e Mexican American participants (n = 86)
were
enrolled at
the same

central Texas university, while 57% percent (n = 116) were enrolled in
a
university on the

border
of Mexico

(where Mexican American students compose

92% of the
student population)
.
Descriptive statistics for the sample are presented in Table 1.

All
participants
signed an

informed consent

form

(approved by an Institutional Review Board)

before taking part in the study, and were given a

debriefing

lett
er that
described

the
purposes of the research after completing the study.

Measures

Relationship styles.
Participants were given an anonymous self
-
report survey questionnaire
that contained cameo descriptions of the three different relationship styles: sel
f
-
focused autonomy
(SFA), other
-
focused connectedness (OFC), or mutuality (see Table 2). The relationship style
cameos were adapted from those used in previous research (Harter et al., 1997;
Neff

& Harter,
2002, 2003).
Styles were defined along six theoret
ically
-
derived dimensions (Jordan, 1991; Miller,
1986), that were embedded within the cameos. In previous work (Harter et al., 1997) these six
dimensions were also assessed separately and were found to be highly inter
-
correlated.
Cameo
dimensions were as
follows:

decision
-
making preferences, priority placed on self and other's
needs, sensitivity to the self's and other's feelings, boundaries between self and other, and
preoccupation with the relationship
. Participants were instructed to answer the question
s in terms
of the most important romantic relationship that they had experienced thus far (past or present),
while those who felt that they had not yet been in a serious romantic relationship were asked to
leave the survey blank. Participants were first as
ked to indicate which of the cameos
best

European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
11

described their style of interacting with their romantic partner. As in past research (
Neff

& Harter,
2002, 2003), participants were then asked to indicate the authenticity of their relationship style
with the follo
wing question, "When you typically behave in this manner, do you feel like you are
being your true self, the real you, or does it feel false, like you are acting that way, but it is not the
real you?" One of two boxes was then checked to indicate if the s
tyle felt like true
-
self or false
-
self behavior. Finally, participants were asked to indicate

which cameo best described the

relationship style of their mother and father.

Acculturation
. Acculturation was assessed using the Acculturation Rating Scale for

Mexican Americans
-
II (ARSMA
-
II) (Cuellar, Arnold & Maldonado, 1995). This

commonly used

scale

measures individuals’ orientation towards European American and Mexican culture, as well
as the degree of discord experienced in relation to each culture (e.g.,
“I associate with European
Americans,” “I enjoy Spanish movies,” “I have difficulty accepting some ideas held by European
Americans”). Responses range from 1, “not at all,” to 5, “extremely often,” and higher scores on
the scale indicate greater levels of
acculturation. Although the

48
-
item

ARSMA
-
II contains
subscales, a total mean acculturation score
also
can be obtained
, and it was these total scores that
were examined i
n the present study.
Also,

although all participants completed the ARSMA
-
II,

only the
acculturation scores of Mexican American participants were
of interest

in the current
study
, especially since

the ARSMA
-
II is not designed
for use with European Americans
.
The
i
nternal consistency

reliability

of the scale

for Mexican American

participant
s

in the current
study

was .86 (
using
Cronbach’s alpha).


Psychological outcomes.

Psychological health
was assessed in terms of relationship
satisfaction, perceived validation, voice, self
-
worth and depressed affect within the relationship.
The scales used
to assess these
constructs

have been used
in previous research

(Neff &
Harter, 2002, 2003), and are adapted from scales initially developed by

Harter and
colleagues (
Harter, 1982;
Harter, Marold & Whitesell, 1992; Harter, Waters, & Whitesell,
1998; Harter,

Waters, Whitesell, & Kastelic, 1998)
.

S
cales assess
outcomes

as experienced
within the relationship

rather than
assessing them globally
, as this technique more
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
12

adequately captures the outcomes of relationship interactions

(Harter, 1999)
.
Participants
were

asked to “Read each statement, thinking about your relationship with your partner.
Check the option that best describes what is true for you.”
Sample items
are
:

Relationship
Satisfaction
-

"Some people are satisfied with their relationship with their part
ner”
;
Perceived Validation


“Some people have partners who listen to their opinions and take
them seriously”; Voice


“Some men have a hard time expressing their point of view to their
partner”; Relational Self
-
W
orth
-

“Some people are happy with the way
they are wh
en they
are with their partner

; and Relational Depression



“Some people feel pretty "down" in the
relationship with their partner.”

The re
spondent then indicated

the degree to which

the
statement
was

true for themselves
on a scale of 1 “not at

all true for me” to 4 “really true for
me.”
T
he five scales

demonstrated good internal consistency reliability in the current study
,
ranging

from .78 to .84

(using Cronbach’s alpha)
, and

scales
were equally reliable for both
cultural groups
.

Results

Relat
ionship styles.

Because the outcome variable of relationship styles was categorical,
Chi
-
Squares were used to determine if there were significant differences in the distribution of the
three styles between groups. If significant differences were found, fol
low
-
up analyses were
conducted in which each relationship style was dummy
-
coded as “1” (present) or “0” (absent), so
that the source of the difference could be determined using t
-
tests.

The percentages of participants adopting the SFA, mutual, or OFC relat
ionship style are
presented in Table 3. Note that the large majority of European and Mexican American participants
of both sexes endorsed the mutual style. First, we examined whether there were differences
in the

relationship styles
of

Mexican Americans a
ttending each university. It was found that there were
no differences in styles among Mexican Americans across the two university settings, X
2

(2,
N

=
202) = 0.74,
p

= .69. We also examined whether or not family income level impacted the
relationship styl
es adopted by Mexican Americans, and found no significant differences based on
income, X
2

(6,
N

= 192) = 5.48,
p

= .48.

For this reason, we collapsed the two samples of
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
13

Mexican Americans together.
Next, we examined whether or not relationship styles dif
fered by
relationship status (married, co
-
habitating, or not co
-
habitating) within each ethnic group, and no
significant differences were found: European Americans,
X
2

(4
,
N

= 213) = 2.45
,
p

= .65;

Mexican Americans,
X
2

(4
,
N

= 202) = 2.05
,
p

= .80.
We th
en examined gender differences in
style
within

each ethnic group. As expected, w
e found a significant gender difference in
relationship styles among Mexican Americans, X
2

(2,
N

= 202) = 6.43,
p

< .05, with follow
-
up
tests indicating that Mexican American m
ales endorsed the SFA style more often than Mexican
American females,
t
(202) = 2.53,
p

<

.01. Follow
-
up tests also indicated that Mexican American
females endorsed the
Mutual style
significantly more often (marginally) than Mexican American
males,
t
(202)
= 1.86,
p

= .06. Among European Americans, no significant gender differences were
found: X
2

(2,
N

= 213) = 2.82,
p

= .24. Next, we examined
between
ethnic group differences in
the prevalence of the three relationship styles (analyses were conducted separa
tely for males and
females since within
-
group gender differences were found). Among males, findings indicated that
that responses differed significantly by ethnic group, X
2

(2,
N

= 138) = 6.25,
p

< .05. Follow
-
up
tests indicated that Mexican American male
s endorsed the SFA style more often than European
American males,
t
(138) = 2.79,
p

<

.005. However, no significant differences were found between
Mexican American and European American females, X
2

(2,
N

= 277) = 3.04,
p

= .22.

Acculturation and relation
ship styles.
In order to examine the interaction between
acculturation and relationship styles among Mexican American participants, we

first calculated the
mean acculturation score for males and females
adopting each

relationship style.
Results were as
fo
llows: SFA Males (
M

= 3.03,
SD

= .46); Mutual Males (
M

= 2.86,
SD

= .36); OFC Males (
M

=
2.85,
SD

= .35); SFA Females (
M

= 2.96,
SD

= .43); Mutual Females (
M

= 2.82,
SD

= .36); OFC
Females (
M

= 2.79,
SD

= .60).

Note that the theoretical midpoint of the
scale (with 1 representing
low levels of acculturation and 5 representing

high levels of acculturation) wa
s 3.00.
We next

determined if acculturation levels differed by relationship styles and sex using a 3 (Relationship
Style) x 2 (Sex) ANOVA.
No signifi
cant differences in acculturation levels were found with
regard to relationship style,
F
(2, 195) = 1.88,
p

= .17 or sex,
F
(1, 195) = 0.43,
p

= .51, nor was
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
14

there any interaction effect,
F
(2, 195) = 0.02,
p

= .98.

We also examined parents’ birthplace as a
p
roxy measure of acculturation (many of the parents of the Mexican American participants were
born in Mexico, see Table 1).
H
owever
,

h
aving a parent who was born in Mexico versus the
United States did not appear to impact relationship styles. The distribu
tion of styles were almost
identical regardless of maternal birthplace, X
2

(2,
N

= 197) = 0.05,
p

= .98, or paternal birthplace,
X
2

(2,
N

= 194) = 0.81,
p

= .67.

Parents’ perceived relationship styles
. We
next

examined participants’ perceptions of their
p
arents’ relationship styles. Results are presented in Table 4. Although most participants indicated
that their mothers and fathers had the mutual style, this style was not reported quite as often for
parents as it was for the self. First, we conducted Chi
-
Square analyses to determine if parents’
styles differed by ethnic group. While mother’s perceived style did not differ by group, X
2

(2,
N

=
305) = 1.40,
p

= .50, a marginally significant difference was found for father’s perceived style, X
2

(2,
N

= 304)

= 5.75,
p

= .06. Follow up analyses indicated that Mexican American fathers were
perceived to have the SFA style significantly more often than European American fathers,
t
(304) =
2.34,
p

< .05. Next, we examined whether there was a significant associatio
n between the self’s
relationship style and the style of the same
-
sex parent (i.e., whether or not some participants
appeared to be modeling their own style on that of their same
-
sex parent). Chi
-
Square
analyses
did
not find any significant associations be
tween the self and the same
-
sex parent’s style for European
American males, European American females, or Mexican American females. However, a
significant association was found for Mexican American males: X
2

(4,
N

= 63) = 10.41,
p

< .05.
Mexican American
males with a SFA style were most likely to say their fathers had an SFA style
(69%), while those with a
Mutual style
were most likely to say their fathers had a
Mutual style
(59%). [
The very few Mexican American males with an OFC style were equally likely

to say their
fathers had an SFA, mutual, or OFC style ( 33% for each paternal style).
]


Authenticity of relationship styles
.
As is shown in Figure 1, t
he vast majority of M
utual
participants in both ethnic groups reported that their relationship style f
elt authentic (96% of
European Americans and 94% of Mexican Americans). SFA participants were less likely to report
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
15

that their relationship style felt authentic (52% of European Americans and 72% of Mexican
Americans), as were OFC participants (66% of Euro
pean Americans and 50% of Mexican
Americans).

A 3 (Relationship Style) x 2 (Ethnicity) x 2 (Sex) ANOVA was used to determine if
reports of authenticity differed significantly according to relationship style, ethnicity or sex. A
significant main effect of r
elationship style on authenticity was found,
F
(2, 400) = 36.21,
p

< .001,
with post hoc tests indicating that
Mutual participants

were significantly more likely to perceive
their style as authentic than those adopting the SFA or OFC styles (all
p
’s < .05),

who were not
different from each other. There
also
was a significant interaction effect found between
relationship style and ethnicity,
F
(2, 400) = 4.11,
p

< .05. This can be explained by the fact that
more SFA Mexican Americans reported that their style

felt authentic than SFA European
Americans, while more OFC European Americans reported that their style felt authentic than OFC
Mexican Americans. No main effects of ethnicity, sex, or other interaction effects were found.

Psychological health and relat
ionship styles.
Because reported levels of Relationship
Satisfaction, Validation, Voice, Self
-
Worth and Depressed Affect were highly inter
-
correlated
(
correlations between the scales

ranged from

.68 to.83),

it was decided to combine these variables
into a

single composite scale termed “Psychological Health.” This four
-
point composite scale was
found to have good internal consistency re
liability at alpha = .94.
As can be seen in Figure 2,
m
ean levels of Psychological Health for each relationship style were

similar across
ethnic

groups.
A 3 (Relationship Style) x 2 (Ethnicity) x 2 (Sex) ANOVA was used to determine if psychological
health differed significantly according to relationship style, ethnicity or sex. A main effect of
relationship style was found,
F
(2, 403) = 23.88,
p

< .001, with post hoc Scheffé tests indicating
that those with the
Mutual style
had significantly better outcomes (
M

= 3.52,
SD

= .49) than those
adopting the SFA (
M

= 3.04,
SD

= .60) or OFC style (
M

= 3.10,
SD

= .61), who were not di
fferent
from each other (all
p
’s < .05). No ethnicity, sex or interaction effects were found.

Discussion

One of the primary purposes of the present study was to determine whethe
r prevalence
rates of the SFA, M
utual and OFC relationship styles would be simi
lar among Mexican
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
16

Americans, who are characterized as having a more collectivistic culture and interdependent sense
of self, than European Americans, who are said to have a more individualistic culture and
independent sense of self. Although some theorist
s may have predicted that the collectivistic
aspect of Mexican American culture would lead to a greater prevalence of the OFC style among
Mexican Americans, we hypothesized that the universal tendency to balance and integrate
concerns with autonomy and con
nectedness would lead to a similarly high prevalence of the
Mutual style
among both cultural groups. Moreover, to the extent that group differences were
found, we hypothesized that the more traditional gender
-
role norms of Mexican American culture
would r
esult in a greater emphasis on the SFA style for males and the OFC style for females
among Mexican Americans. Results lent support for the first hypothesis, and partial support for
the second. Among European Americans and Mexican Americans alike, the
Mutu
al style
was
endorsed the large majority of the time. This
supports Killen and Wainryb’s (2000) proposition

that the tendency to integrate concerns with autonomy and connectedness is a common occurrence
among
young adults
from both individualistic and col
lectivistic cultural backgrounds, and gives
credence to the idea that concerns with autonomy and connectedness are mutually supportive
rather antithetical (Deci & Ryan, 1995; Guisinger & Blatt, 1994). It also supports the propositions
of those scholars (e.
g., Andrade, 1982; Davis & Chavez, 1985 Montoya, 1996) who argue that
there is relative equality in Mexican American relationships.

Still, there were gender differences among Mexican Americans that were not apparent
among European Americans. It was found
that Mexican American males adopted the SFA style
significantly more often than Mexican American females, and also did so significantly more often
than European American males. Contrary to the
notion

that European American males
are

prototypically

self
-
fo
cus
ed and

individualistic, these findings suggest that the more traditional
gender roles found in Mexican American culture lead to a stronger emphasis on autonomy for
Mexican American men than for European American men. Interestingly, no ethnic group
diff
erences in style were found for women, and Mexican American women were
not

more likely
to adopt the OFC style than European American women. Thus, it may be the case that although
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
17

there is relative equality among Mexican American couples, and few women are

bound by cultural
scripts of
marianismo

(Gil & Vasquez, 1996; Lopez
-
Baez, 1999), a small percentage of
young
Mexican American men
are still

impacted by
machista

norms emphasizing independence and self
-
assertiveness for males (Roschelle, 1999).

Contrary
to our expectations
, the relationship styles of Mexican Americans did not differ
according to whether they were in a majority Anglo or majority Hispanic educational setting, nor
did they differ by income level. Similarly, acculturation did not seem to impa
ct relationship style
adoption for Mexican Americans. This was true when potential acculturation differences were
examined using a standard acculturation scale, and when examining parental birthplace (Mexico
or the United States). The finding that accultu
ration did not impact relationship styles appears to
stand in contrast to results obtained by other researchers (e.g., Taylor et al., 1999) who have found
that acculturated Mexican American women tend to have more egalitarian relationships than those
who a
re less acculturated. Of course, our research was conducted with a college population, and
even Mexican American women with lower levels of acculturation attending a predominately
Mexican American university are likely to have less traditional gender
-
roles

than those who have
not gone to college (Leaper & Valin, 1996). Future research should be aimed at examining
whether acculturation impacts the relationship styles of individuals who are not attending college.

The

main reason that a college
-
aged

population

was chosen for this study was to explore
whether the relationship styles that youths saw displayed by their mothers and fathers impacted
the adoption of the self’s style, given that the college years represent a time in which
independence from parents is,

for many, just beginning to emerge

(
Arnett, 2000; Steinberg &
Silverberg, 1986
)
. Interestingly, ethnic group differences in reports of parents’ perceived
relationship styles replicated those found for youths’ styles. While there were no ethnic group
dif
ferences in mothers’ perceived relationship style, Mexican American fathers were described as
having the SFA style significantly more often than European American fathers. In terms of the
link between the self’s style the perceived style of same
-
sex parent
s, parental style was not

significantly associated with the self’s style for European American males or females, or for
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
18

Mexican females. For Mexican American males, however, having a father who was perceived to
have the SFA style significantly increased t
he likelihood that one adopted the SFA style oneself.
These findings suggest that the machismo ideal of self
-
focused autonomy for Mexican American
men is
relatively

robust, and that it continues to be transmitted across generational lines. In
contrast, i
t appears that gender roles among Mexican American women have undergone
greater

transformation in recent years (Espín, 1999; Hernández, 1996), with mutuality becoming more and
more normative.

It should be noted that participants who adopted the
Mutual styl
e
were also the most likely
to report that their style felt authentic, regardless of ethnicity.
This finding supports claims made
by theorists such as Deci and Ryan (2000) that autonomy and connectedness are basic and
universal human needs that must both b
e fulfilled in order to optimally engender authentic,
intrinsically motivated behavior.
Given that European Americans are said to have a more
independent sense of self and Mexican Americans a more interdependent sense of self (Markus &
Kit
ayama, 1991
), one

might have also expected that the SFA style would more often be described
as authentic for European American and the OFC style more authentic for Mexican Americans.

A
significant interaction between ethnicity, relationship style and authenticity was foun
d, but it was
in the opposite direction than what would be expected with the cultural self
-
construal model. A
greater percentage of SFA Mexican Americans reported that their style felt like their true self than
SFA European Americans, while a greater perce
ntage of OFC European Americans

reported that
their style felt like their true self than OFC Mexican Americans.
No gender interactions were
found.
While the exact cause for these cultural differences is unclear, they certainly highlight the
fact that the
internal feelings of

individuals often
stand in opposition to

prevailing cultural norms
(Turiel, 2002).


Finally, the link between the three relationship styles and psychological well
-
being was
examined in order to determine if mutuality would be associ
ated with the best outcomes for
Mexican Americans as has been

found

in previous research with European Americans (Harter et
al., 1997;
Neff

& Harter, 2002, 2003). Results indicated that mutuality led to significantly better
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
19

outcomes for both ethnic groups

in terms of relationship satisfaction, perceived validation, voice,
self
-
worth and depressed affect than those adopting the SFA or OFC styles (who did not differ
significantly from each other). As proposed by Blatt (1995), it would appear that an overemp
hasis
on meeting either the self’s needs or the other’s needs in relationships is a detriment to mental
well
-
being, regardless of the overarching ideological orientation of one’s culture towards
individualism or collectivism.


One limitation of this
stud
y

was that it was conducted with

college
students
,
wh
o represent

only one segment of the young adult population,
and an examination of cross
-
cultural differences
among European Americans and Mexican Americans from a larger variety of educational
background
s will be needed in
future research
.
Still, the average acculturation scores of the
Mexican American
s who participated in this study were below the
scale midpoint, indicating

a
predominate orientation towards Mexican American culture

despite college studen
t status
.
Another limitation is that this study measured participants' self
-
reports of their relationship styles,
not their actual behavior. Thus, the high frequency of mutuality reported in this study may have
been in part due to a tendency by participant
s to give responses that were consistent with an
idealized self
-
image. However, it is reasonable to assume that most of those endorsing the
Mutual
style
actually believed that they had a
Mutual style
in relation to the other (even if such beliefs
were del
uded to some extent). Therefore, these subjective perceptions are still valid and important
in terms of their link to other subjective perceptions, such as authenticity, relational self
-
esteem,
etc. Also, the finding of greater SFA among Mexican American m
ales was found both in self
-
reports and in children’s reports of parents’ relationship styles. Because these latter perceptions
are
somewhat
more objective, they help confirm the finding that the SFA style is more prevalent
among Mexican American males th
an other groups.

In summary, the results of the current study suggest that

the influence of culture on
orientations towards autonomy and connectedness are non
-
straightforward and complex.
For male
and female participants from both cultural groups, a mutu
al integration of concerns with autonomy
and connectedness was the most commonly adopted relationship style, was the most representative
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
20

of participants’ “true self,” and was the most psychologically adaptive.

Thus, despite
differing

cultural templates of

individualism and collectivism, the human need to integrate concerns with
autonomy and connectedness

appeared to predominate in the relationships of our participants.
Moreover,
the traditional
gender
-
role norms

of

Mexican American culture

were

associated
with an
increased emphasis on autonomy for
Mexican American males.

T
o the extent that collectivistic
cultural systems include support for hierarchical gender roles,
therefore,
Mexican American
males
may
sometimes

be seen to
act more “individualistically”
in their romantic relationships than
European American

males
.

European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
21

Endnotes


1.
While the three relationship styles may appear similar to Hazan and Shaver's (1987) adult
attachment styles, Harter et al. (1997) found that the two measures were not significantly

associated, demonstrating that the two typologies
address

different relational constructs.


European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
22

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European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
29


Table 1

Demographic Information



European Americans

Central Texas Univ.

(N =

213)

Mexican Americans

Central Texas Univ.

(N = 86)

Mexican Americans

Border University

(N = 116)

Gender

34% male, 66% female

37% male, 63% female

28% male, 72% female

Age

M

= 20.9,
SD

= 1.8

M

= 20.5,
SD

= 1.6

M
= 20.9,
SD
= 2.0

Years in relationshi
p

M

= 1.8,
SD

= 1.4

M

= 2.3,
SD

= 1.9

M

= 2.7,
SD

= 2.3

R
elationship status

3% married

11% cohabitating

86% not cohabitating

4% married

12% cohabitating

84% not cohabitating

18% married

6% cohabitating

76% not cohabitating

Acculturation level

N/A

M

= 2.9
2,
SD

= 0.38

M

= 2.80,
SD

= 0.39

Mother’s birthplace
=
Father’s birthplace
=
㤶V⁕pⰠ〥⁍exic漠
=
㤶V⁕pⰠ〥⁍exico
=
㜱T⁕pⰠ㈶O⁍exico
=
㘹S⁕pⰠ㈷O⁍exico
=
㐵4⁕pⰠ㔴R⁍exico
=
㐷4⁕pⰠ㔰R⁍exico
=
oeli杩ous= affiliation
=
㈹O⁃ath潬ic
=
㌴P⁐r潴estant
=
㌷P⁏ther
=
㜸T⁃ath
潬ic
=
㔥⁐r潴estant
=
ㄸN⁏ther
=
㘲S⁃ath潬ic
=
㤥⁐r潴estant
=
㈸O⁏ther
=
A灰p潸imate
=
family= inc潭e
=
㌥†ess=than=␲〬〰A
=
㜥†␲〬〰〠
J
=
␴〬〰A
=
㈴O․㐰ⰰ〰=
J
=
␸〬〰A
=
㘷S潲e=than=␸〬〰A
=
ㄱN†ess=than=␲〬〰A
=
ㄹN†␲〬〰〠
J
=
␴〬〰A
=
㌲P․㐰ⰰ〰=
J
=
␸〬〰A
=
㌹P
潲e=than=␸〬〰A
=
㐸4†ess=than=␲〬〰A
=
㈱O†␲〬〰〠
J
=
␴〬〰A
=
㈴O․㐰ⰰ〰=
J
=
␸〬〰A
=
㠥潲e=than=␸〬〰A
=
=
European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
30

Table 2

Relationship Style Cameos


Self
-
Focused Autonomy

-

When an important decision has to be made that will affect both my
partner and me, I th
ink about what to do on my own and then make a suggestion. I also tend to
give priority to my own needs and goals rather than to my partner's. I find it difficult to be as
sensitive to my partner's needs and feelings as I would like, and am more likely to
focus on my
own needs and feelings. It's important for me to have a lot of separate space in my relationship
with my partner, and too much emotional closeness can make me feel uncomfortable. I don't feel
the need to think that much about my relationship wi
th my partner, and tend to be occupied with
other concerns.

Mutuality

-

When an important decision has to be made that will affect both my partner and me, I
discuss the options with my partner and offer compromise solutions. I also tend to balance my
partn
er's needs and goals with my own needs and goals. I am sensitive to my partner's needs and
feelings, but am also sensitive to my own needs and feelings. It's important that I feel emotionally
close to my partner, yet I also make sure that I have enough sep
arate space in the relationship.
Although I think about my relationship with my partner, it's not to the exclusion of other concerns.

Other
-
Focused Connection

-

When an important decision has to be made that will affect both my
partner and me, I tend to l
et my partner suggest what we should do. Moreover, I tend to give
priority to the needs and goals of my partner rather to than my own. Although I am sensitive to my
partner's needs and feelings, I can end up overlooking my own needs and feelings. I like to

be
emotionally connected to my partner and want to feel that my partner and I are as close as
possible. I tend to think a lot about my relationship with my partner, to the point where it can be
hard to focus on other concerns.

European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
31

Table 3

Relationship Style
s among European Americans and Mexican Americans (in Two Different Universities)







European Americans Mexican Americans


Central Texas University Central Texas University

Border University


Total


Males Females Males Females Males Females Males

Females

SFA

7% (05)


13% (18)

22% (07)

9
% (05)

21% (07)

8% (07)

22% (14)

9% (12)

Mutual

82% (60)

72% (101)

69% (22)

78% (42)

70% (23)

83% (69)

69% (45)

81% (111)

OFC

11% (08)

15% (21)

9% (03)

13% (07)

9% (03)

8% (07)

9% (06)

10% (14)

Note.

SFA = Self
-
Focused Autonomous, OFC = Other
-
Focu
sed Connected. Frequencies are presented in parentheses.

European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
32

Table 4

Perceptions of Parents’ Relationship Styles among European Americans and Mexican Americans






European Americans

Mexican Americans


Fathers Mothers Fathers Mothers

SFA

25% (53)


18% (38)

38% (75)

16% (31)

Mutual

59% (126)

61% (130)

50% (9
5)

57% (112)


OFC

16% (34)

21% (45)

11% (22)

27% (53)

Note.

SFA = Self
-
Focused Autonomous, OFC = Other
-
Focused Connected. Frequencies are
presented in parentheses.



European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
33

Figure 1.

Percentage of participants who perceived their relationship style as authentic, sorted by

relationship style and
ethnicity
.








European and Mexican American Relationship Styles
34

Figure 2
. Mean psychological health scores, sorted by relationship style and eth
nicity.