Negotiation in cross-cultural marriages : an exploratory qualitative study among middle class professionals in Hong Kong

  • Pui Kwan MAN

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis attempts to focus on families and their children (if any) in cross-cultural marriages. These families potentially face extra stress and strains in addition to those which all families face. As a result of recent social and economic changes, certain roles such as those of the breadwinner and caregiver, traditionally male-female roles, may be becoming more interchangeable. Cross-cultural families’ may have differences in cultural backgrounds, attitudes and expectations, as well as potential support networks, so the research will investigate whether these sorts of changes place even greater than usual demands on families.

Therefore, it may be important for couples to be able to negotiate in respect to roles and activities as it is a form of interaction and communication. Negotiation usually takes place between couples because both have something to offer and gain from the process in order to achieve a win-win situation between them. Whilst the literature addressing the division of labour among cross-cultural couples in Western societies has grown considerably, there is relatively little research which examines the situation between cross-cultural couples in Hong Kong, where such unions are quite common. Hence, this research aims to investigate the process of negotiation (if any) between husbands and wives in cross-cultural marriages with relation to their roles within the family. It also attempts to elaborate the roles of domestic helpers and ageing parents, which may mediate or complement the duties of couples and, perhaps, enhance family harmony and family care to family members.

The present study adopts a qualitative approach and grounded theory for data collection in examining a negotiation process between husbands and wives. A total of 14 middle class cross-cultural married couples (aged 30 to 58) were interviewed. Different sources of information such as literature, in-depth interviews with couples and opinions from key informants were also adopted to enrich the findings and to enable triangulation to enhance the reliability of the data.

The findings show that all of the cross-cultural couples shared the household division of work due to the egalitarian attitudes they held towards each other. They tended to be more tolerant to each other. It is noted that domestic helpers can complement the duties of couples. The roles of full-time domestic helpers are essential because they take the pressure off couples, whereas part-time domestic helpers are very helpful in doing jobs that couples do not want to. It is also suggested that ageing parents in Hong Kong only complement the duties of couples after the women has given birth.

With respect to negotiation strategies, the more popular ones used were: compromising, accommodating and collaborative (problem-solving). It is also hoped that such strategies may be developed for social help, with direct relevance to the social stability of cross-cultural families in Hong Kong.
Date of Award2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology and Social Policy
SupervisorDavid Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor) & Keng Mun LEE (Supervisor)

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