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Cross-Cultural Codes On Husband-Wife Relationships

Gwen J. Broude, Sarah J. Greene
Published 1983 · Sociology

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This article presents a set of codes and ratings dealing with several dimensions of husband-wife relationships as they are patterned across societies. This set of scales is the second in a series of codes that have been developed as the basis for a long-term study on variations in male-female relationships in cross-cultural perspective. The first set of scales concerned the purely sexual aspects of malefemale interaction (Broude and Greene 1976). The codes provided here, by contrast, focus on nonsexual measures of husband-wife relationships. In particu? lar, these scales are concerned with five related features of the marital bond. These include mechanisms for arranging marriages, customs identified with newlyweds, intimacy and aloofness between husbands and wives, divorce, and treatment of widows. The codes thus highlight various stages of the marital relationship from the initial choice of a partner to the termination of a marriage through divorce or the death of a husband. While the construction of these scales has been dictated in large part by our own research interests, we also see these codes as contributing to other studies of husband-wife interaction. Variations in marital relationships have been examined by a limited number of cross-cultural anthropologists; however, no extensive set of scales measuring customs and behaviors surrounding marriage is currently available. Thus, while Whiting and Whiting (1975) and Slater and Slater (1965) have explored the causes and consequences of variations in husband-wife intimacy and aloofness using measures of the marital relationship that are similar to a number of the codes presented here, they have relied upon a set of unpublished codes constructed at Palfrey House, Harvard University, so that their raw data are unavailable to other researchers. Other investigators?for example, Stephens (1962, 1967)?do include measures of marital interaction in their published work. However, these indices, which include polygyny, motherchild sleeping arrangements, and the long post-partum sex taboo, are somewhat indirect and selective. Researchers familiar with the cross-cultural literature on cross-sex identity and hypermasculinity will recognize these variables as also figuring prominently as measures of father-absence (see, for example, Ayres 1974; Burton and Whiting 1963; Kithara 1975; Slater and Slater 1965; Stephens 1962; Whiting, Kluckhohn and Anthony 1958). Again, as indices of father's role in relationship to mother and child, these measures are not ideal.
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