Determining the Influence of Linguistic Differences on Marital Stressors in Inter-Cultural Marriages, Research Proposal Example


In an increasingly globalized world, opportunities for people of different racial and cultural backgrounds have greater opportunities for contact than at any time in human history. In this context, the issue of interracial and intercultural marriage, and the attendant satisfaction of partners in such marriages, is of legitimate concern for researchers. The purpose of this study will be to explore the construct of intercultural marriages with a specific focus on how linguistic differences influence the ability of married partners to navigate culture-based stressors. The study will be premised on the hypothesis that intercultural married partners who share a common first language will express greater overall levels of satisfaction with their relationships than intercultural married partners who do share a common first language.

Background/Review of Literature

A significant body of research exists that explored marital satisfaction in interracial and intercultural marriages. The bulk of this research is aimed at determining what sorts of problems partners in interracial and intercultural marriages face, with an eye towards quantifying the primary stressors on interracial and intercultural marriages (e.g.- Fu et al, 2001; Seshadri & Knudson-Martin, 2013). Few of these studies focus on how differences in communication styles and language backgrounds influence the ability of partners to navigate cross-cultural differences.

The dearth of studies that examine the effect of language differences on communication efforts interracial and intercultural partners undertake to resolve marital issues leave open questions about whether cultural differences are easier to navigate when partners share common first/primary languages.

Research Questions

Primary Questions:

Does sharing a common language between inter-cultural married partners help them mediate marriage-related stressors?

Are intercultural married partners who share a first/common language more satisfied with their relationships than intercultural married partners who do not share a first language?

Secondary Questions:

Do you and you partner have different primary languages?

Did you and your partner discuss your cultural differences before marriage?

Did you and your partner reach any agreements before marriage about how to address or resolve issues that may arise due to cultural differences between the two of you?

If so, have you and your partner adhered to the agreements you reached before marriage?

Does your partner understand you when you explain why your cultural background dictates or demands certain behaviors from you or your partner?


The participants in this group can be wide-ranging; the primary criteria must be that they are intercultural couples who have married or cohabitating for a period of several years or more. In order to assess the role of language in mediating stressors in intercultural marriages, it will be necessary to conduct research with intercultural couples who share a common/first language as well as with intercultural couples who do not share a common first language.


A qualitative approach based on semi-structured interviews will be conducted with the couples; questions in the interviews will be posed that can and will have multiple answers with the answers to the questions serving to prompt follow-up questions.


Manipulations/variations in the test questions will consist of prompt statements, with respondents being asked to agree or disagree with them. Variations in the questions will relate to how strongly respondents agree or disagree with assertions about the significance of racial, cultural, and linguistic differences being offered as roots causes of marital stress. By varying these factors it will be possible to determine subjectively what factors married partners see as the greatest cause of stressors. Control questions will be offered to partners with different linguistic backgrounds, while partners with different cultural backgrounds who share a common primary language will serve as the variable group. The construct of the questions should reveal whether there is a consistent linguistic factor influencing marital stressors.


Participants will be individually presented with the quantitative survey; subsequent to the completion of surveys, individual participants will be interviewed

Interviews will be conducted in a consistent, neutral setting

Participants will offer verbal responses to questions which will be recorded audio-visually and notated by interviewers


Survey results will be analyzed through statistical techniques such as multiple regression analysis using SPSS.

Interview results will be analyzed through thematic analysis that looks for common themes related to marriage, relationship satisfaction, culturally-related issues, and other relevant information.


The bulk of the research in this field is focused primarily on the mechanics of relationships, i.e.- what steps intercultural married partners take once one or more marital stressors arises. This study will add to the body of research by focusing on how couples communicate about culture-specific stressors, in an effort to determine what role linguistic differences play in the ability to successfully resolve or avoid conflicts


Bustamante, R. M., Nelson, J. A., Henriksen, R. C., & Monakes, S. (2011). Intercultural Couples: Coping With Culture-Related Stressors. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 19(2), 154-164.

Fu, X., Tora, J., & Kendall, H. (2001). Marital happiness and inter-racial marriage: A study in a multi-ethnic community in Hawaii. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 32(1), 47-60.

Seshadri, G., & Knudson-Martin, C. (2013). How Couples Manage Interracial and Intercultural Differences: Implications for Clinical Practice. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy , 39(1), 43-58.