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“Parental Choice” of Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 24th, 2020

Article Critique

Apostolou, M. (2010). Parental choice: What parents want in a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law across 67 pre-industrial societies. British Journal of Psychology, 101(4), 695-704.

Research question

The author sought to determine the traits that are preferred by parents in a daughter or a son-in-law. This research question was based on the observation that parents in most societies play a critical role in determining who becomes their daughter or son-in-law.

Hypotheses

The author observed that the new member who joins the family unit upon marriage contributes greatly to survival and reproduction in that family. Consequently, a son or a daughter who joins the new family based on marriage has to possess certain characteristics that favor the survival and reproduction of the family. In this regard, the author came up with three hypotheses as stated below:

  1. “Parents are not indifferent to the selection of a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law and tend to prefer individuals with traits beneficial to them and their kin.”
  2. “Parental preferences are contingent upon the sex of the in-law; that is, parents are expected to value traits differently in a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law.”
  3. “Parental preferences are contingent upon the subsistence type of a given society” (Apostolou, 2010, pp. 696-697).

Methods and study design

The author relied on data from the Standard Cross-cultural Sample (SCCS) to conduct the study. The SCCS is made up of 180 societies from the pre-industrial age. This data was preferable since it contained information from an independent and a sufficient number of societies. This had the potential of increasing the reliability and generalizability of the findings.

The researcher came up with two categories of societies from this data: a category constituting of predominantly agricultural-pastoral societies and a category that was predominantly involved in hunting and gathering. The exclusion criterion was based on whether a society had data regarding marriage and whether a society established marriage based on courtship. Out of the 148 societies that were left after applying the exclusion criterion, only 67 societies could be used to provide data on parents’ preferred characteristics in their child’s spouse.

Two coders, one of them an independent coder, were used to code the preferred characteristics into coding sheets. The coders first came up with two subsamples of societies that were independent of each other. New coding sheets were then developed and more traits identified. Correlations across traits were done for the two sets of data to come up with one sheet. The average correlation for various traits was.92. A total of 13 traits were realized from the coding process and listed in a table.

Data Analysis

The 13 traits were ranked independently according to frequencies and percentages for parents’ preferential traits in a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law. The significance level for the Chi-Square test was.001. Highly preferable traits were ranked top in the table, while less preferable traits were ranked lower in the table.

Parents had a higher preference for in-laws who had a good character and good family backgrounds. A wealthy family background also scored relatively high. Industriousness, good heredity, and being a good worker were preferred traits by parents in a son or a daughter-in-law.

The likelihood ratio Chi-squared statistic was employed to determine significant differences in traits’ preference between in-laws. Twelve (12) cases were dropped before conducting the study to avoid bias since these societies controlled daughters’ choice of a mate, but left sons free to choose their mates. Significant differences were noted for various traits from the analysis conducted on the remaining 55 cases. There was a significant preference for working ability traits in a son-in-law than a daughter-in-law [x2(1, N-23)= 6.14, p= 0.013]. It also mattered whether a son-in-law showed promise for economic prosperity than a daughter-in-law [x2(1, N= 11) = 5.06, p= 0.024]. Parents preferred a daughter-in-law who was chaste than a son-in-law who had the trait of chastity [x2(1, N= 6)= 8.50, p =.004]. There were no significant differences in preferences for good looks, a wealthy family background, and the health of the spouse. It is important to note that all parents agreed on the traits they were seeking in sons and daughters-in-law.

The results of this analysis confirmed all the three hypotheses. In other words, the analysis confirmed that parents prefer in-laws who possess qualities that benefit their kin and the parents themselves. It is also true that parents’ preferences for in-laws differ depending on whether it is a son or a daughter-in-law in question. There are also varying differences in preference for a daughter or a son-in-law depending on the subsistence activity of a society.

Critique

The SCCS data used in this study makes the study credible given that the data is made of different and sufficient numbers of cultures whose statistical analysis would give reliable findings. However, the fact that less than half of the entire sample of 148 societies was used for analysis may have reduced the reliability and generalizability of the findings to some extent. An independent coder was able to control for bias. The Chi-square test was the most appropriate test for this study since the Chi-square helps in showing frequencies and testing hypotheses as required in this study (Jackson, 2012). Some significant differences in parents’ preferences could have been missed since the sample size in this study was small. It advisable for future studies to use larger samples to be able to explore all the preferable traits by parents. This study contributes to the understanding of family dynamics and sexual selection in humans.

Summary

The study findings indicate that a significant number of parents from different societies have specific preferences for their sons and daughters-in-law. Parents want to have a role in the choice of sons or daughters-in-law since they view that sons and daughters-in-law play a critical role in determining the continuity of their families.

References

Apostolou, M. (2010). Parental choice: What parents want in a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law across 67 pre-industrial societies. British Journal of Psychology, 101(4), 695-704.

Jackson, S. L. (2012). Research methods and statistics: A critical thinking approach (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 24). "Parental Choice" of Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/parental-choice-of-son-in-law-or-daughter-in-law/

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""Parental Choice" of Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law." IvyPanda, 24 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/parental-choice-of-son-in-law-or-daughter-in-law/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Parental Choice" of Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law." July 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/parental-choice-of-son-in-law-or-daughter-in-law/.


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IvyPanda. ""Parental Choice" of Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law." July 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/parental-choice-of-son-in-law-or-daughter-in-law/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. ""Parental Choice" of Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law." July 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/parental-choice-of-son-in-law-or-daughter-in-law/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) '"Parental Choice" of Son-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law'. 24 July.

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