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The Impact of Mixed


Labour Force survey (1985) found: 27% of Black British Men, ... in an attempt to deny their black heritage. ... They don't write on the Sabbath day. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Impact of Mixed

The Impact of Mixed Relationships on Three
Generational Families Reena Masrani,
Patrick Leman Peter Smith
Goldsmiths College, University of
London People in all cultures have fathers,
mothers, sons and daughters. But the relations
between them are not culture free
(Ramanujan, 1983, p.171) This poster describes
a study to explore the interface between the
personal experiences of couples in mixed
relationships and
the intergenerational relationships existing
within their families. Mixed marriages in
An analysis of the ethnic origins of couples in
the 1991 census found 1.3 were inter-ethnic
unions (Berrington, 1998)
A Channel 4 documentary (2000) on mixed faith
marriages stated 72 of Catholics now have mixed
faith marriages an average of 500 Muslim women
marry men of a different religion each year
86of Muslim mixed marriages are by men Since the
1950s an average of 10 Jews "marry out" each day
The Office of Population Censuses and
Surveys Labour Force survey (1985) found 27 of
Black British Men, 14 of Black British
Women, 10 of Asian Men, 5 of Asian Women in
mixed marriages
  • Inside the mixed marriage
  • We might anticipate differences between cultures
    on the social constructions of marriage.Whilst
  • are a potential source of richness they may also
  • challenges for those marrying between cultures
    due to different religious or cultural beliefs.
  • Although differences may create tension and
    conflict, by couples negotiating what customs and
    rituals from both cultures they wish to practice
    within their family unit, they can create their
    own micro-identity described by Breger Hill
    (1998) as cultural bricolage so that
  • The mixture of our backgrounds has turned out
    to be a strength rather than a weakness

  • (Johnson Warren,1994, p.2.)
  • How freely customs are adopted and adapted may be
    influenced by whether the mixed family is
  • with extended kin, or within an ethnic community
    in which following perceived traditions is
  • Children_from_mixed relationships
  • Choices of identity and cultural belonging are
    unlikely to be hard and fast. Children may
    include features from any cultural side they are
    a heirs to
  • unless a decision to choose one is forced.
  • Potential problems which children may face
    cultural, ethnic and racial identification
    issues, lowered self

  • esteem, difficulties in dealing with conflicting
    cultural demands, and feeling marginal in two
  • Johnson Nagoshi, (1986) found few differences
    experienced between the offspring of intragroup
    and intergroup marriages, but the research was
    done in Hawaii where intermarriage is common and
    little prejudice exists.
  • Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jackson Harris (1993) also
  • found no evidence of problems in biracial
  • in New York.
  • In Brixton in the UK, Benson (1981) found a
  • significant proportion of 27 racially mixed
    children in
  • 20 interracial households defined themselves as
  • in an attempt to deny their black heritage.

  • Grandparenting a child of a different race or
    ethnic group
  • It is interesting to look at grandparents as
    ethnicity affects grandparenting styles, and
    values, due to their role as a bearer of a
    cultural legacy (McCready, 1985).
  • The value a culture places on grandparenting is
    known as grandparents latent identity (LGI), and
    may be affected by ethnic and cultural factors
    (Kornhaber, 1996).
  • Kerwin et al (1993) found that grandparents with
    strong religious beliefs were anxious for their
    grandchildren to be brought up with an awareness
    of their ethnic heritage.

Method .
Aim to explore the personal experiences of
couples in mixed relationships and their
  • 3 mixed and 3 non mixed families were used so
    that general experiences of family life and those
    specific to mixed families could be

Mixed two people from different linguistic,
religious, ethnic groups or nations. Couples in
in long term relationships and cohabiting as were
also included, because according to Berrington,
(1998) some couples may hold less traditional
marriage views.
in-depth interviews with each family member to
get a detailed view of their experiences.
  • Data analysis
  • As people talk about their experiences their
    representations and beliefs are
    not stable entities, but are continuously created
    and negotiated, and speakers may often contradict
  • Discourse analysis is a technique which seeks to
    unravel the complex richness of attitudes by
    attending to the details of what is said, and how
    it is presented by uncovering the layers of
    meaning (Billig, 1992).
  • Through talk people perform many actions e.g.,
    blaming, justification or denial to achieve
    particular effects (Edwards Potter, 1993).

  • Steps taken in the analysis
  • Verbatim transcriptions made of each interview.
  • Literature about mixed families and the
  • method and purpose of discourse analysis
  • was considered as transcripts were slowly read.
  • An iterative technique was used to
  • identify sections considered to be significant.
  • These were highlighted.
  • From significant statements broad themes emerged.
    Sections fitting into these themes were analysed,
    and ideas that reoccurred within transcripts were
    arranged into discourses.
  • Fragments of text most illustrative of the
    discourses were picked out to provide validity,

  • evidence for their existence within the
  • Early assumptions were checked and rechecked. As
    patterns and inferences emerged individual
    transcripts were looked at to clarify ideas and
    see how participants had positioned themselves
    within the discourse.
  • Different extracts were compared looking for
    counter examples, and the conflict and tension
    present (Billig, 1997).
  • Results
  • The discourses found in each family were explored
    in terms of looking at general issues specific to
    each generation with the other dimensions that
    are introduced within mixed families.

  • The analysis concentrates on the cultural and
    religious issues which arose within the mixed
  • Cultural Background and its influence in mixed
  • In all relationships there are bound to be
    differences. The key in these relationships was
    to put beliefs and practices stemming from
    cultural backgrounds into the context of their
  • Breger Hill (1998) termed this as cultural
    briocolage and there was evidence of parents
    having engaged in this as they considered the
    relevance and importance of certain aspects of

  • culture and religion to them in their families
  • neither of us care that much about those
    cultural aspects to be prepared to jeopardise
  • the relationship.
  • However, besides having differences due to
    cultural beliefs couples also felt that they were
    many common points as well due to families having
    similar cultural aspirations.
  • Inevitably one of the aspects of culture and
    having two backgrounds widens the choices of who
    you identify with. In one of the mixed families
    where the mother was white and father African
    American, the father seemed to have certain ideas
    of what cultural heritage his daughter should
  • .

her dad thinks its I shouldnt do that and
you know tell her about Father Christmas. He
hates Father Christmas because Father Christmas
is white. Thats another thing, just like wonder
woman (laughs). And errm he thinks that is
really wrong and er its not relevant to her, er
its not culturally relevant to her, shes black,
and anyway and I think thats a lot of rubbish.
Father Christmas is an idea not a person This
is interesting because the father sees white
images negatively, yet in terms of teaching his
daughter about blackness he did not foster any
of the responsibility which the mother felt he
should you should take her not me (laughs).
Im not black, you are
While wanting her daughter to have an awareness
of both cultures she felt it should be a
responsibility they both handle, according to
their backgrounds. This was echoed in one
Jewish-Christian mixed relationship. The
Christian partner was happy to allow Jewish
customs and practices to be accommodated, yet in
terms of actively getting involved he did not see
that as his responsibility it is up to Karen
how much effort she wants to put into that
religious identity. I will I will support it,
but Ill, its not something I want to spend huge
amounts of time doing myself From childrens
perspectives they did not suffer from
having two backgrounds. The mixed race daughter
mentioned above identified with both cultures and
their offerings, and related it to appearance as
well I am quite proud that I am American and I
am quite proud that I am English, so it dont,
it doesnt really matter what you look
like Parents also thought that having two
backgrounds should not pose a problem
either there is no conflict because there are
no strings being pulled in opposite
directions,...basically the differences between
myself and Karen my partner are one of the things
that make the relationship work. Exploring those
cultural differences in a relationship is fun
Exploring cultural differences and negotiation
filter down to children for example in the
Jewish-Christian family the children were going
to learn to negotiate cultural rocks and
mediate what they could and could not do at their
Jewish grandparents house on the Sabbath its
very clear from Karens parents that they are
orthodox, but they are certainly quite religious
and you cant spend that much time with them
without that being apparent. They dont write on
the Sabbath day. So if my kids want to do writing
in their house, they cant so they are going to
come across those notions so they they are going
to but errm so but I think they they will learn
to mediate in a sense the
  • children are learning to negotiate whatever
    cultural rocks there are in the in the way
  • The negotiation is not seen as problematic, but
    as gaining an awareness and knowledge of what is
    acceptable or appropriate and being able to make
    those choices.
  • However, sometimes tradition can compete with
  • This couple faced the choice whether or not a son
    would be circumcised. Although the issue was
    discussed it never needed to be confronted as
    cleverly they had girls. Yet each family member
    was aware of the implications that either decision

  • could have had if a son had been born.
  • It also brought a realisation to the couple that
    certain things can be so ingrained in culture
    that others outside of the culture may find it
    hard to understand
  • something like I could go and circumcise my son,
    just something I could never, he would never ever
    understand, he will to this day never ever
    understand, but I accept that
  • Religion
  • Religion was a more obvious issue in the mixed
    faith family that were interviewed as in the
    other two families they came from differing

  • backgrounds where religion was not a major point
    of difference.
  • Parents were showing their children that there
    were various options. While many may view coming
    from different faiths or cultural backgrounds as
    a problem, this need not be the case. Even in
    non-mixed families there can be different
    positions of religion. Only in mixed faith
    households is it more obvious.
  • For example in same religion households where
    there may be differing levels of believing, the
    practising of customs and traditions may be taken
    for granted with little awareness of the meaning.

  • In mixed households nothing can be necessarily
    assumed as it is likely a conscious decision to
    get involved or not is made
  • The more steps you take away from Judaism the
    harder it isI kind of have loads of dilemmas
    about you know what does it mean, what what is it
    Jewishness? And how much is important.
  • This Jewish mother saw Judaism an an important
    part of her life. Her Jewishness was not based in
  • religious teachings that it gave her, but the
    culture and traditions it offered.
  • She felt that in many ways it was a way of life
    and difficult to separate the cultural and
    religious aspects of it. By not practising all
    customs to the

  • full extent, and compromising it meant that she
    had to make more effort to pass on the richness
    of the culture to her children.
  • An interesting point explored in interviews was
    how all religions have common points. This Jewish
    woman partnered with a Christian believed it
    would be more of a problem if there no religion
    in her partners family as then there could be no
    understanding of why you feel the way about
    certain traditions
  • I think if it wasnt for Doras religion,
    Charless Mums, that would be more of a problem.
    Theres some position of religion in their
    family, just happened to be different religions,
    but there was a, you know religion was a bit

  • The mixed children interviewed in this study were
    between the ages of 8-10 in the mixed families.
    They did not seem to have that much awareness or
    interest in their heritage or religion
  • Its just so boring, its just muttering on about.
    I dont know its just weird. If it was a bit like
    interesting I would probably like it more
  • However, age or being from a same cultural and
    religious background does not make it any easier
  • understand religion. A 17 year old girl who had a
    religious upbringing from two Christian parents
  • I dont know whether I believe in God or not,
    but I do most of the time

  • Family Relations
  • This is an area where tension and conflict can
    arise between the parent and grandparent
    generations, especially as these mixed
    relationships threaten the taken for granted
    certainty that may exist in non mixed families
    regarding the cultural and religious upbringing
    of children.
  • Between the generations there was a view that as
    people get older they are less able to to deal
  • issues that are unfamiliar or things that they do
    not know about. Another persons cultural beliefs
    may be seen as funny ideas.
  • One grandmother whose daughter was in a mixed
    culture and race relationship, where the

  • grandchildren did not have an input of that
    cultural side, felt that problems existed
  • different upbringing completely.. Different,
    different values, everything is different.
  • The relationships grandparents form with the
    mixed partner can be thought of one with mixed
    feelings. The Jewish womans father reflected on
    his feelings
  • I would have prefered it to be different. Would
    have been happier of course if she had even
    married a Jew, but errm er well whilst I would
    have liked it to be different I accept the
    situation now and Ive grown really fond of him

While he seems to have resolved the issue or
presents the view that he has, his daughter
considers it to be a bit different, although from
the following extract it seems she too is trying
to look at his position and understand it he
kind of got into a real mess because he started
acknowledging that you know he really likes
Charles and my sisters boyfriend, even though
they are not Jewish, he really likes them. I mean
it was not the right thing to say and he kind of
got into a real mess kind of mess about it, but
its because hes so, its so in built in him,
that, thats what he believes that he has to say
at any opportunity, but to his credit hes never
said negatively it about somebody personally. I
  • he has said to me in another way, you know
    Charles is just so lovely, and I really like him,
    and Im really fond of him, and its a bit of a
    problem that hes not Jewish, but actually no he
    doesnt say that anymore.
  • Although grandparents may have ambivalent
    feelings about their childs partner these may be
    resolved when grandchildren enter the equation.
  • There is the continuation of the family line,
    with the possibility of passing traditions and
    being a link to the past (McCready, 1985).
  • However, sometimes they may not be able to get as
    involved as they would like

  • She just sees them going of to Synagogue and not
    to Church and I think that rankles with her.
    Theres not that much that I can do about it.
    Errm so so that is a bit of an issue but there is
    a general I think she would be jealous of
    whatever grandparents, whatever the other
    grandparents were. Whether they were Christian or
    Jewish. That would still be there, but as another
  • With this grandmother there was a feeling of a
    divide having been crossed from shared culture
    to one culture. This father resolved the issue
    seeing with his view of religion as knowledge.
    Christianity was the dominant culture and
    religion which society

  • is permeated with and cannot really escape. Yet
    the childrens knowledge of Judaism would need
    some nurturing as it is a minority faith and not
    as accessible as Christianity.
  • Conclusions
  • Mixed relationships can be enriching with both
    partners bringing together their experiences and
    expectations to create a new household. In the
    families interviewed regardless of cultural
    backgrounds there were many similar themes which
    would suggest that you are a parent or
    grandparent first and you have a sense of what
    that involves without any specific cultural
    expectations impacting on that. The key factor in
    these relationships and

  • families was negotiation and to compromise.
  • Children were being exposed to bits of different
    cultures and some of this was in a religious
    context, and they were at ease with their
  • Grandparents could have concerns about couples
    relationships, and the family, but could offer a
    lot in terms of making a childs experience more
    culturally rich.
  • References
  • Billig, M. (1997). Rhetorical and discursive
    analysis How families talk about the royal
    family. Doing Qualitative Analysis in
    Psychology. Hove Psychology press.
  • Breger, R., Hill, R. (1998). Introducing Mixed
    Marriages. In Breger, R., Hill, R. (1998).
    (Eds). Cross-Cultural Marriage Identity and
    Choice. Oxford. Berg

Channel Four Documentary (2000).
htm Edwards, D.
Potter, J. (1993). Discursive Psychologhy.
London.Sage. Johnson, R.C., Nagoshi, C.T.
(1986). The Adjustment of Offspring of
Within-group and Interracial/Intercultural
Marriages A Comparison of Personality Factor
Scores. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 48,
279-284. Johnson, W.R. Warren, M. (1994).
Inside The Mixed Marriage. University Press of
America London. Kerwin, C., Ponterotto, J.G.,
Jackson, B.J., Harris, A. (1993). Racial
Identity in Biracial Children A Qualitative
Investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology,
40, 2, 221-231. Kornhaber, A. (1996).
Contemporary Grandparenting. Thousand Oaks
Sage. McCready, W. (1985). Styles of
Grandparenting among White Ethnic. In V.l.
Bengston J.F.F. Robertson (Eds.),
Grandparenthood. Beverly Hills, CA
Sage. The Office of Population Censuses and
Surveys Labour Force Survey (1985). Cited in
Alibhai-Brown, Montague, A. (1992). The colour
of Love. London. Virago Press.