Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The constructs of gender and culture have been neglected in our understanding of marital relationships. With the recent upsurge of postmodernism, the two constructs have come into focus as essential to furthering our understanding of these relationships. My doctoral dissertation research is a cross-cultural comparative study of five Hong Kong Chinese immigrant couples in Canada and five Euro Canadian couples who were born in Canada I used a social construction perspective to examine the gender and cultural processes that evolve in the long-term satisfactorily married couples. Couples who have been married for thirty to thirty-six years were under study.

I used the Dyadic Adjustment Scale which measured married couples' marital adjustment and satisfaction as a screening instrument to identify the ten couples for in-depth interviews. I adopted an inductive narrative approach to analyse the gender and cultural factors that contribute to long-term marital satisfaction. The narratives of the couples' evolution of their gender relationships reflect the evolving culture embedded in a particular group's socio-historical context. Through comparison of the two cultural groups, I made the cultural elements more transparent, and in turn, problematised certain gender issues in their socio-historical context. Building upon the existing knowledge of long-term marriages, I conducted an empirical research grounded in a theoretical model which illuminated how cultural contexts and gender role expectations interweave with interpersonal life to create meaning of a satisfactory long-term marital relationship. With the cross-cultural comparisons, I explored the different meanings of marital expectations, marital satisfaction, gender role expectations, and the qualities of sharing, acceptance, and commitment in marriage among the two cultural groups under study. Cultural-specific factors and cross-cultural factors that contributed to satisfactory long-term marriages were discovered from the couples' narratives.

Compatibility between the partners in a marital relationship was found to be important for a couple to achieve marital satisfaction. Perceived fairness in the couple's gender division of labour, efforts to accommodate changes and go through difficulties, the distribution of decision-making power, willingness to compromise, shared values and activities, and good communication contributed to long-term marital satisfaction. Care and concern, as most of the long-term marriage studies suggest, were more important than satisfaction in sex. A distinctive factor, gender mutuality -- the reciprocity of each spouse in understanding the other's gender characteristics -- was found to contribute to the couples' high level of marital satisfaction. Couples who had high gender mutuality also had a more positive sense of self.

My cross-cultural comparative study articulated the complex processes of socio-cultural construction of male and female in each cultural group under study and examined how such forces affected long-term marital satisfaction. My theoretical endeavour was to dislodge the oppositional dichotomy of the dominant Western gender discourses and deconstruct the Western notion as the norm for understanding human behaviours. I explored the different meanings co-constructed by the husband and wife in a marital relationship, under their own socio-cultural contexts, in achieving the couple's long-term marital satisfaction.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season