A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Demand–Withdraw Marital Interaction: Observing Couples From a Developing Country

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Abstract

The authors used cross-cultural methodology to examine the demand–withdraw pattern of marital communication. In Western countries, women usually make more demands, whereas men are more likely to withdraw. But the recently advanced marital structure hypothesis suggests that this pattern can be altered by gender roles and beliefs, particularly in traditional marriages. To test such hypotheses, the authors conducted an observational study of marital communication across very different cultures, with varying levels of patriarchy (i.e., 50 White American couples, 52 Pakistani couples in Pakistan, and 48 immigrant Pakistani couples in America). Across cultures, demand–withdraw communication was related to marital distress, extending previous findings to new groups. However, the findings challenge the notion that demanding and withdrawing behaviors are inherently male or female; rather, the results point to the relevance of contextual factors, specifically gender power differences and acculturation, in understanding the demand–withdraw marital interaction pattern. Therapists working with foreign or immigrant couples must consider the cross-cultural generalizability of existing theories of marital communication.

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