How Do Cross Cultural Marriages Influence the Children Born in Such Families?
There is a popular myth saying that children born in cross-cultural families are smarter, stronger, and more developed in all other aspects than ordinary ones. In some cases, it is true. However, as is known, this effect is one-off and these effects usually gradually disappear with each next generation. There can be different effects from cross-cultural marriages. For example: “With more than 700 young adolescents, the results showed that young adolescents from binational families had parents with lower socioeconomic status than monocultural families. However, young adolescents from binational families performed better on creativity tests (fluency, flexibility, and originality) than those from monocultural families” (Chung, Hsu & Shih, 2014).
Moreover, a child of two persons having too distant genes can even have a reversed effect. Many cases are evidencing fetal defects in children of cross-cultural families. Moreover, it also happens when such children have less developed cognitive functions or even higher risk of chronic diseases. Therefore, contrary to popular opinion on the benefits of cross-cultural marriages, children from parents from different ecological and climatic zones are particularly vulnerable to multifactorial diseases because the genotype, inherited from parents, is adapted to various environmental conditions and is therefore extremely vulnerable.
The results of the questioning of teenagers and their families regarding their opinions towards cross-cultural marriage and its fundamental values deserve attention in studying this question. In case of choosing mutual honesty, love, and respect and fundamental values, the ethnic identity of people does not seem to a decisive factor. However, most people over 35 years old (their parents) predominantly choose ordinary marriages and traditions in marital relations as the most crucial factors. “Differences in the way people in these marriages celebrate certain holidays or have dietary restrictions are to be expected” (Julien & Barreau, 2017). It is worth to mention that they did their assessments according to their life experience. If, for example, among the cross-cultural marriages between Germans, French, and Spanish, the percentage of divorces is equal to the percentage of single national marriages of these national groups, then among the American-Chinese and American-Brazilian marriages this rate increases sharply and reaches 40-50% in some regions. The main reason for the divorces in such families is that American women, marrying Chinese or Brazilian men, experience specific difficulties to adapt to the foreign culture and traditions, where the behavior of a young married woman is significantly different from the American one and has some inherent features.
Moreover, marriages between people of notably different cultures and appearances can be criticized by certain people. Thus, more than 20% of the polled Americans, Brazilians, and Chinese citizens opposed the entry of their children into interracial marriages (motive: they want to preserve national identity and traditions of their family). Therefore, there is also a component of particular cultural and ethnic prejudices. Considering all these concepts, it seems that the dilemma of cross-cultural marriages requires closer attention.
The increasing number of intercultural marriages in recent years (see the data of the census of 2005, 2010, and 2016) provides many reasons for studying their positive effects on children than the number of divorces in such families. There is no need to discuss once again how divorces influence children. Unquestionably, the very idea of marriages between representatives of different cultures is only possible in states with a high level of intercultural tolerance, like the US. “Though people are much more likely to date, live together, marry, and thus have children if they share the same racial background than if they do not, interracial relationships are expected to rise as America becomes more racially diverse, and social taboos against interracial dating and marriage fade” (Kuroki, 2017, p. 6). Such marriages must be connected with the high overall culture of official representatives, and the further functioning of the mixed family should be a “zone of increased attention” on the part of society.
Families and marriages, initiated between people of different races are a very risky business, at least when it comes to reproduction. There are biological and genetical reasons for it. Some journal articles evidenced that in pregnant Asian women, the risk of developing diabetes is several times higher than that of women of the European type, and in cross-cultural families, where one of the spouses is of the Mongoloid type and the other to the European model, this risk doubles. This problem affects even those matches, where only the father of a child belongs to the Mongoloid type. Moreover, women from mixed couples have a much higher probability of the need for delivery by cesarean section. Consulting the figures, in those families where the mother is European, the number of cases of the need for such surgery is 23% higher, and in families where the mother is of the Mongoloid race, it is up to 33%. These percentages are opposed to ordinary marriages (same nationality). “Thus, cultural norms may remain strong while losing their relevance for (intended) fertility behavior” (Mayer & Trommsdorff, 2010, p. 22).
Scientists believe that pregnancy in women from cross-cultural marriages has some genetic peculiarities. The weight of newborns in pairs of three types differs: it is least of all in Mongoloids and quite logically higher in Latin (3400 g). However, the hardest part is for Asian mothers who give birth to children from European men: the average weight of a newborn is about 3320 grams. In most cases, it becomes a reason for a cesarean section, since the size of pelvic bones of Asian women is much smaller. The results of the study can be beneficial for such multinational countries as, for example, the US, where the number of multicultural marriages reaches 15%, because now there is data on how cross-cultural families influence the newborn, and the newlyweds themselves should know possible risks. At the same time, according to Khalid Iqbal, the head of the research of Rahmaa Institute, close attention is paid to the study of mixed pairs, but the primary focus has always been on the problems of African-American and European unions. “Sometime within the same state of Kerala the culture and tradition of the South is different than the one from the North. The same thing is true for Arab, Far East, or within Africa. There are distinct cultural differences with Europe or in the US between the Northern and Southern States” (Iqbal, 2016). The fact that the threats of health problems have a genetic origin is also confirmed by the fact that the results of the study were not affected either by the education, the age of the mothers or even whether they had consulted a doctor before getting pregnant. Very often, from ordinary people, one can hear an unsupported stereotypical judgment that the children of people of different nationalities (or different racial groups) are more fit for life, smarter, more physically attractive, and if a closed group will interbreed, then genetic degeneration is inevitable. However, in the end, it is a stereotype.
Summing up genetical and biological peculiarities of cross-cultural marriages, it is possible to assume that risks are quite significant. However, it is also worth to mention psychological and sociological sides of multicultural upbringing. Knowledge of cultural traditions, language, values of the ethnos, acquired through parental culture, is an acquaintance with parental ethnic cultures, an exercise in using information about parental ethnic cultures: traditions, language, values. The acquisition of new knowledge, the development of the child’s cognitive abilities, increases cultural awareness. “Across cultures, the only difference the authors found was that at 24 months, rural Canadian toddlers showed higher scores than rural Indian toddlers” (Giner Torréns & Kärtner, 2017, p. 2). If the child initially perceives appearance, language, customs, the accumulation of information increases the child’s ability to interpret cultural attributes and include the cultural community of ancestors, the common historical and cultural fate, religion, values, traditions among them. Another component of the structure is an attachment to a particular culture. He or she is connected with representatives of parental ethnic cultures, including in the system of ethnocultural relations.
The personal attitude to the cultural events of two cultures as a component of the structure of the cultural identity of the adolescent means a comparative assessment of the facts of the cultures, the determination of preferences that regulates a deeper layer in the cultural identity of the adolescent: those choices that the adolescent makes in favor of one or another ethnic culture. The manifested preference will promote identity with that cultural community, the culture of which turned out to be a priority for a child. “Although important sources of cognitions reside in the individual’s microsystem of personal experiences, cognitions must also be consistent with the culture because they are embedded in and are created within the macrosystem” (Bornstein, Putnick & Lansford, 2011, p. 8).
Involvement in the cultural practice of the culture implies the presence of motivation to participate in the practice of both cultures, the development of various forms of cultural practice. An intensive process of immersion in the culture of people is carried out through such activities as reading, talking, visiting ethnographic museums, and actively participating in cultural events. Besides, the maintenance of cultural traditions, confessional affiliation, etc. are considered as an indicator of the ethnocultural identity of a person. The problem of identifying a child within a traditional society was achieved precisely due to the inclusion of the individual in the life of the group and the constant confirmation of belonging to it as a socially significant intra-group interaction.
The use of the language of parental cultures in the structure of the identity of a child and a teenager is the mastery of the language of the parent ethnos and its use in the practice of communication. Ethnic language serves the communication of ethnos and provides socio-cultural relations in the process of communication between members of the ethos. Children, learning the language, are introduced through it to the collective experience. “Just as cultural variation dictates the language children eventually speak, cultural variation exerts significant and differential influences over the mental, emotional, and social development of children” (Bornstein, 2013, p. 258).
In result, there are both positive and negative effects of cross-cultural marriages on children. Biological factors predominantly present negative consequences: some cross-cultural couples are less compatible than others, and in such cases, a child can tend to some diseases or defects. Moreover, there is a significant possibility of the need for a cesarean section. Considering psychological and social factors, children from cross-cultural families can learn faster and be more active in social life. One of the most profitable factors here is knowledge of two languages and two cultures, which expands the borders of a child’s identity. The psychological conditions that contribute to this are mutual understanding and respect between parents. Representatives of different ethnic cultures, based on a high level of empathy towards each other, their conscious connection to certain aspects of their cultures; great versatility of the cultural fund, which is created by two cultures, as compared with each of the individual cultures; values and norms that arise through the interaction of two cultures. The study of the cultural identity of parents shows that all parents of both ethnic and mono-ethnic marriages are identified with their ethnic cultures. At the same time, the parents of inter-ethnic marriage are more active in involving children in the culture of their ethnic group.
Bornstein, M. (2013). Parenting and child mental health: a cross-cultural perspective. World Psychiatry, 12(3), 258-265. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wps.20071
Bornstein, M., Putnick, D., & Lansford, J. (2011). Parenting Attributions and Attitudes in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Parenting, 11(2-3), 214-237. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2011.585568
Chang, J., Hsu, C., Shih, N., & Chen, H. (2014). Multicultural Families and Creative Children. Journal Of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(8), 1288-1296. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022022114537556
Giner Torréns, M., & Kärtner, J. (2017). The Influence of Socialization on Early Helping From a Cross-Cultural Perspective. Journal Of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 48(3), 353-368. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022022117690451
Iqbal, K. (2016). Cross cultural relationships. Rahmaa.org. Retrieved 13 September 2017, from http://www.rahmaa.org/case-studies/interfaith-and-intercultural-issues/cross-cultural-relationships/
Julien, B., & Barreau, A. (2017). Common Issues in Mixed Marriages. Internations.org. Retrieved 13 September 2017, from https://www.internations.org/guide/global/international-marriage-and-relationships-15294/common-issues-in-mixed-marriages-2
Kuroki, M. (2017). Marital Dissolution and Formation for Interracial Couples: Evidence from Parents of Biracial Children. Race And Social Problems. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12552-017-9202-4
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