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50 years after Loving v Virginia, research shows cross-ethnic relationships are high in secure attachment

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This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Loving v Virginia which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Brunel University London Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Stanley Gaines is an expert in personal relationships, cross-cultural psychology and ethnic studies and in a new blog for Psychology Today to mark the Loving v Virginia anniversary, he discusses his research into women and men in interethnic, primarily marital, relationships.

Stereotypes have long persisted in American society which view marriages across ethnic lines as dysfunctional, Dr Gaines explains. Yet his research in the 1990s showed that the majority of interethnic couples were securely attached – there was no clear evidence for dysfunctionality.

He adds: “However, perhaps it is surprising that, when the proportions of women and men who are securely versus insecurely attached are compared across interethnic and intraethnic relationships in the studies by us, individuals within interethnic relationships are significantly more likely to score as securely attached than are individuals within intraethnic relationships.

“Of course, we have considered only one aspect of individuals’ personalities (attachment styles) that might be reflected in relationship dynamics among interethnic versus intraethnic relationships. 

“We do not know whether the ‘Big Five’ personality traits of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism differ among individuals who do versus do not form long-term romantic relationships across ethnic lines—and, if so, whether the differences would favor individuals within interethnic relationships. Also, we do not know whether attitudes such as self-esteem and narcissism differ across individuals in the two types of relationships.”

Visit Psychology Today to read the full blog

Gaines Profile

Dr Stanley Gaines is also the author of a new book on the subject, Identity and Interethnic Marriage in the United States (Routledge, 2017) which draws on psychological and sociological perspectives, quantitative and qualitative data, to consider ways in which the self and social identity are linked in the dynamics of interethnic marriage.

Reported by:

Sarah Cox, Media Relations