Counseling the BI-Racial Couple, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

There are more and more couples of different races and ethnicities joining in marriage in the United States today than there ever has been. According to the article “Interracial Marriage in the U.S. Climbs to New High, Study Finds” written in the Huffington Post (2012), 8.4% of all of the current marriages in the United States are interracial. Of the 275,500 marriage in 2010, “43% were White-Hispanic couples, 11.9% were black-white couples, and the remainder were other combinations” (Interracial Marriage in the U.S. Climbs to New High, Study Finds, 2012, 1). This is a huge number when thinking about interracial couples. The problem is that society, education, socioeconomic status, income and culture can all be indicators of a failed marriage for these individuals and there is not one specific counseling method that deals with all of these factors in order for the biracial couple to overcome the obstacles that they face. These indicators make it difficult for biracial couples to focus on their marriage and have a happy, healthy life. According to Jeffrey Nord, a psychotherapist for adults and couples (n.d.), it was not legal to marry outside of a person’s race until 1967 and afterward this became the norm. Biracial couples date back to the early slavery era where White slave owners married their own black slaves and this was overlooked as the Whites were superior to all the rest. The scope of the problem, as stated already, is that there is not one specific counseling approach that works for all biracial couples; there are actually three in which the literature states can be helpful if used collaboratively. Unfortunately, there is an impact of the problem that does affect counseling. Biracial couples must undergo many different types of counseling, three at least, in order to be able to cope with the factors in which normally cause their marriages to fail. Therefore, more therapists are needed unless one can deal with all three therapy approaches in order to make this work for biracial couples. Also, it takes more of the time of the counselor or therapist to work with biracial couples because there is more to be discussed, more to go over, and more to do to help the biracial couple overcome the obstacles that are set in front of them every day. What is the best approach? Plain and simple, there isn’t one. There are three and a therapist must be able to use all three of them to help the biracial couple in their endeavors of being a biracial couple.

Goals of the Paper

This paper will attempt to discuss the three different types of biracial counseling that should be used in order to help the biracial couple. Since there is not just one approach that is best, it is important to discuss all three and how they can work together collaboratively to help biracial couples and their marriages. These three topics include multicultural awareness, the narrative approach, and the psychodynamic approach. There will be an emphasis on these three concepts in this particular order. The multicultural awareness approach will explain how making others aware of cultures combining can be productive. The narrative approach will explain how biracial couples can be flexible and evaluate specifics in their lives. Finally, the psychodynamic approach will discuss the importance of the biracial couple to find common ground with each other and others outside of their marriage. The discussion area of this paper will explain some of the indicators that tend to affect biracial marriages and cause them to fail. These include society, education, socioeconomic status, income, and culture. The summary and conclusions will sum up the entire paper and explain why it is important to use the three methods collaboratively. Finally, the recommendations portion of this paper will allow the writer to give an idea of what is recommended for these couples and how they can use counseling to their advantage.

Literature Review

According to the literature, there are three approaches to biracial counseling that work best. It is important to use all three of these in order to get the best results. According to Jeffrey Nord (n.d.), these include multicultural awareness, the narrative approach and the psychodynamic approach (4). The multicultural awareness method is based on feminist theory and is put in place in order to raise awareness of the multicultural individuals who choose to marry individuals outside of their race or their culture. It is not only to benefit the couples, but also to raise awareness throughout our society to help others understand why some people marry outside of their race or culture. One source by Stanley Gaines, Regan A.R. Gurung, Yu-Yi Lin, and Nektaria Pouli (n.d.) states that “results from Porterfield’s (1978) study of married couples indicated that love was the primary reason that individuals gave as to why they had married their cross-race partners” (175). The specific goal of the multicultural awareness program is to “help clients challenge rather than adapt to oppressive parts of society” (Nord, n.d., 4). It is stated that change that is meaningful to the couples will occur once personal and societal change is addressed simultaneously.

The narrative approach to counseling interracial couples is important as well, to the couples and to society. This approach “underlies the necessity to be flexible and evaluate alternative explanations” (Nord, n.d., 5). This approach allows the counselors to help the couples to look at similarities and differences between each person in the couple in order to create a specific environment where each of their cultures can be valued and respected rather than opposed. This helps both the couple and society understand that their marriage is not just based on trying to be abnormal or rebellious; there are problems within the marriage that deal with culture and there are ways to improve the life that these individuals live together.

“The psychodynamic approach was proposed by Waldman and Rubalcava (2005) for helping interracial couples resolve their differences” (Nord, n.d., 5). This theory is based on what the couples learned as children. When they are children, they “internalize from their subjective experiences of the family of origin” (Nord, n.d., 5). This is really saying that they learn from their environments as children and they may just learn that biracial marriages or commitments are not allowed or are not worthy of anything. This approach also suggests that children learn from their culture and their sense of self is defined by their culture. This can be detrimental to a biracial marriage if the individuals do not change their perspectives while in the marriage.

According to Nord (n.d.), “the common ground between all of these methods of treatment is the ability to comprehend that each individual’s views of the world through their own personal cultural lens” (5). Therapists must be able to use each of these in order to help the couples see and understand their parts or roles within the relationship. They are also responsible for helping the couples see that there are similarities and differences between cultures and that these are very real and play a significant role in the marriage.

Discussion

In the discussion, it is important to explain how factors such as society, education, socioeconomic status, income and culture can relate to counseling, the type of counseling, and how much counseling is actually needed in order for the biracial couple to understand themselves and society. Society does not accept biracial couples with ease. Many believe that people should stay within the context of their own race. They believe that going outside the lines of race causes problems and dissatisfaction within society. Our society today still believes that those individuals who marry outside of their own race are “rebellious” or “morally degenerate” or lack self esteem (Gaines et al, 2005, 174). According to Kelley Kenney (2002), “the historical context of controversy regarding intermarriage in the United States is based upon a set of assumptions and societal myths regarding the superiority of Whites” (2). Whites were know to have the most authority in the old days and many still do today; therefore society believes that Whites are giving up their superiority when they marry outside of their own race or culture. Stereotypes are also very strong in our society today. Many believe that those who marry others not within their own race or culture have ulterior motives. “These motives include a desire to experiment with the exotic, sexual curiosity and promiscuity, a quest for economic and social status or achievement, domination, inability to attract a member of one’s own race, potential citizenship, rebellion against family or society, low self-esteem, and racial self-hatred” (Kenney, 2002, 2). Finally, values are of utmost importance within our society. Many care about what others think of us as a society and many believe that if individuals intermarry, those values do not obtain to them. Values are also important to each individual set of people within the biracial couple so those values have to be respected.

Education, socioeconomic status and income all play roles in the biracial couple and counseling. Therapists have to understand each person’s education, the socioeconomic status (individually and collectively), and income. But, all of these things also play a very vital role in whether the relationship will last, as well. According to Aaron Gullickson (2006), many highly educated black individuals tend to trade their educational status for social status. Whites, in this case, would also trade their low levels of educational status for higher educational status by being married to a White male. “The darker the skin color of racial minorities, the more likely they are to have married whites “below” them, that is, with less education than themselves” (Qian, 2005, 35). Just as education is important to mention, so is socioeconomic status. According to Jenifer Bratter and Rosalind King (2008), an individual’s socioeconomic status in the form of education or income “is consistently and negatively associated with the likelihood of marital disruption” (162). This is why therapists need to use specific strategies in their sessions with biracial individuals. Just as marriage rates are high for interracial couples, so are divorce rates. According to the article in the Huffington Post “Interracial Marriage in the U.S. Climbs to New High, Study Finds” (2012), divorce rates are higher for interracial couples, there is a 41% change of separation or divorce, and Black-White couples are considered the least stable. Finally, income is also important both collectively and individually for the interracial couple. According to Catherine Rampell (2012), the annual income for interracial couples is between $52,660 and $71,800 depending on the couple’s race. This is very interesting because it shows that some interracial couples make more than others just as intermarried couples and therapists need to have methods in order to help interracial couples understand this concept.

The final point that should be made in the discussion is in reference to culture. According to Gaines et al (2005), “culture can be defined as a dynamic, yet stable, set of goals, beliefs, and attitudes shared by a group” (172). Culture can also include similar characteristics such as skin color, levels of hostility, hairstyles and clothing. Nationality, sex/gender, religion, and geography also play a role in the culture of a person (Gaines et al, 2005, 172). Culture is important to both society and to the couples that are in interracial marriages. The American society has a problem with interracial couples because they do not fully understand them, due to religion, and because they often see them as rebellious (Smith, 2006, 1). This is common for the American culture because this culture has not fully learned how to deal with change. Each individual culture between the couple may cause problems as well as disclosure, display of affection, gender roles, leisure activities, and ethnocentrism play a role in each person’s own culture. According to Smith (2006), the person’s culture dictates what kind of personal information is disclosed, how much affection is displayed and how, what masculine and feminine roles should be within the home and outside of the home, what leisure activities to share or not share, and the tendency to look at things from one’s own personal point of view. These are things in which could hurt a marriage if these things are not talked about throughout the marriage.

Summary and Conclusions

Multicultural awareness therapy, the narrative approach, and the psychodynamic approach to interracial couples can help society understand the interracial couple and help each couple learn more about each other and their relationship as a whole. However, not one of these is best; they have to be used collaboratively to make a difference. According to Laurie McClurg (2004), family counseling can also be helpful as many children are being raised in biracial homes these days. Family counseling helps the children understand themselves and their lifestyles compared to others. It helps them understand their own self-identity and gives them self esteem. According to Rose Kreider (2000), “being in an interracial marriage increases the odds of divorce, but it is a less important predictor of divorce than other characteristics of individuals and couples which we are accustomed to thinking of raising the likelihood of divorce” (32). This is why all of these counseling approaches are important and why each therapist should be able to help their clients by using them.

Recommendations

Recommendations include using this research as a means of helping biracial couples stay together. This can be done, but therapists have to use all three of these therapies as well as others collaboratively to make a difference. We cannot prevent couples from marrying the people they love, whether it is based on race or gender; however, we can help them stay together and can help the community understand where they are coming from and why they are together. It is all about love. It is not about upsetting society or going against the grain. Once everyone realizes that couples have the right to be together and they see these couples as normal people, the stigmatization could possibly change.

References

Bratter, J.L. (2008). “But will it last?” Marital instability among interracial and same-race couples. Family Relations, 160-171. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00491.x/pdf

Gaines, S.O. Jr., Gurung, A.R., Lin, Y., & Pouli, N. (2005, Sept.) Interethnic relationships. Retrieved from http://www.uwgb.edu/gurungr/Research/Pubs/InterethnicRel05.pdf

Gullickson, A. (2006). Education and black-white interracial marriage. Demography, 43, 673-689 Retrieved from http://pages.uoregon.edu/aarong/papers/gullick_mardemog.pdf

“Interracial marriage in the U.S. climbs to new high, study finds.” (2012, February 16).

Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/16/interracial-marriage-in-us_n_1281229.html

Kenney, K.R. (2002, December 1). Counseling interracial couples and multiracial individuals: Applying a multicultural counseling competency framework. HighBeam Research. Retrieved from http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-98642270.html/print

Kreider, R.M. (2000). Interracial Marriage and marital instability. (Dissertation). University of Maryland.

McClurg, L. (2004). Biracial youth and their parents: counseling considerations for family therapists. The Family Journal, 12, 170-173. doi: 10.1177/1066480703261977

Nord, J. (n.d.). Can counseling help an interracial couple? Retrieved from http://jeffrey-nord.Com/content/view/37/33/

Qian, Zhenchao. (2005). “Breaking the last taboo: interracial marriage in America.” American Sociological Association, 4, 33-37. doi: 10.1525/ctx.2005.4.4.33

Rampell, C. (2012, February 17). Interracial couples who make the most money. New York Times. Retrieved from http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/interracial-couples-who-make-the-most-money/Smith, R.C. (2006). Two cultures: one marriage. Retrieved from http://dialogue.adventist.org/articles/10_2_smith_e.htm

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