Individuals marry, not races – Brunel psychologist among first to analyse interethnic marriage as a social issue

The research was publicised in the US on Martin Luther Day. In 1960 King said: “In a truly integrated society, interracial marriage should be legal. This is not a true problem since individuals marry, not races”.

More than 50 years later, despite a growing number of mixed marriages – 14.6 per cent – it is still met with controversy – with only 43 per cent of Americans seeing this trend as ‘good for society’.

Dr Gaines said: “Despite the dramatic rise in the rate of interethnic marriage that has occurred within the United States since the 1960s, interethnic marriage remains a potent social issue. As Duck and VanderVoort (2002) pointed out, many individuals view interethnic marriage as “inappropriate”; among those individuals, negative sentiment can vary along a continuum from viewing interethnic marriage as unconventional, to disapproved, to forbidden.”

Referring to 1967’s Loving v Virginia civil rights decision in which a white man and a black woman married, invalidating laws prohibiting interracial marriage, Dr Gaines added: “This is a hot topic in the US; the Loving v Virginia case was cited in the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Obergefell v Hodges that same-sex couples (like heterosexual interracial couples) possess a fundamental right to marry.

“The upcoming 50th anniversary of Loving v Virginia is likely to bring the issue back into public consciousness during the next year.”

Dr Gaines and his fellow editors Eddie Clark and Stephanie Afful use interdependence theory as a foundation to examine interracial marriages, which looks at relationships in terms of rewards and costs and how these mix with people’s expectation of relationships. The idea is that in a relationship, partners influence each other’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour; and in order to keep receiving rewards over the short term, partners may acknowledge that they have to endure some costs over the short term. These basic dynamics are true of all relationships, whether within or across races. One complicating issue for interracial couples, though, is that they often cannot count on their own families for support when they experience hostility from strangers.

The journal includes research on differences between personal and general attitudes, where people may approve of interracial marriage but wouldn’t do it – 75 per cent of white people express approval of black-white marriage when asked using a traditional question, but only 49 per cent of white males and 39 per cent of white females expressed a willingness to marry a black person.

A further article considers gaps between ethnicities, intermarriage and socio-economic motives – showing that Asian people and white people inter-marry more than black people and white people due to higher assimilation.

Nearly one in 10 people in the UK (9 per cent or 2.3 million) were in an interethnic relationship in England and Wales in 2011.

Dr Gaines said: “The story is different for the UK, and this journal provides food for thought where scholarly and everyday discussions are not nearly as likely to acknowledge interethnic marriage, let alone approach it from an objective, scholarly manner as in the US.”


Click here to read the journal