Date of Award:

9-2017

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Renee V. Galliher

Abstract

People of Chinese heritage often face complex challenges because of the conflicting values from China and America, especially on sexuality. Through two thousand years of socialization, Chinese culture grew to endorse conservative sexual values and gender roles. In traditional Chinese culture, women are expected to remain chaste and play submissive roles in marriage. Sexuality is treated as a taboo topic that should not be discussed directly. Asian American youth who endorse less traditional Chinese values experience lower sexual satisfaction, lower confidence in their own abilities, and higher adherence to traditional gender roles. Language has also been found to potentially influence how people engage in sexuality by triggering a mindset of Chinese or English culture background.

The current study assessed ethnic identity and acculturation experiences as correlates of sexual and intimate interactions with partners among people with Chinese heritage, and how English and Chinese language are used in relationships. For men, more endorsement of traditional Chinese and mainstream American culture was associated with greater feelings of conflict in their cultural identity. Greater feelings of identity conflict linked to lower ability to effectively and assertively communicate with a partner on sexual topics. Men with higher feelings of identity conflict also reported higher double sexual standard. Women, on the other hand, did not report increased feelings of conflict as they endorsed Chinese and American cultures more strongly. Women's preference for English language was related to their ability to effectively and assertively communicate with partner on sexual topics, whereas men's preference for English language was related to greater communication with partner and lower double sexual standard. Moreover, language fluency was the strongest indicator of language preferences regardless of the contexts or the topics. When making decisions or expressing positive feelings to partner, participants considered a language more effective when they are more fluent in it. However, when expressing negative emotion or discussing sexual topic with partner, people tended to prefer English because English has clearer labels for emotions and sexual terms.

In sum, cultural identity, acculturation experiences, and language proficiency all related to Chinese bilinguals' sexual and romantic attitudes and behaviors, although unique patterns emerged for men and women.

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