Gender roles and romantic relationships

11 November 2014

Ishta Singh

Culture issues: Psychology student Ishta Singh is studying the relationship experiences of young New Zealand-born Indian women.

Indian women born in New Zealand can face conflicting values when it comes to defining gender roles and establishing romantic relationships. 

Ishta Singh, a South African-born Indian who's lived in New Zealand since she was 10, is studying the issue for her masters degree at the University of Waikato.

Negotiating cultures to fit in

She says young Indian women who are brought up in New Zealand have to negotiate across cultures as they try to fit in with their parents' rules and wishes for their future alongside living day-to-day in a more liberal New Zealand environment.

"Indian families are usually very patriarchal and so women are likely to take a subservient role in any romantic relationship," says Ishta. "But if you've grown up in contemporary New Zealand you're likely to have a different notion of how relationships should be. For example, a young Indian woman in New Zealand might not want an arranged marriage, she may want to go out on dates, go out with someone who isn't Indian."

Researching relationship experiences

Ishta hopes her research will reveal more about how young women deal with the expectations of parents and their own expectations "and it may also help us understand why some women stay in unhappy relationships".

Ishta is seeking Indian women aged between 18 and 25 who have grown up in New Zealand and who would be happy to participate in focus groups to talk about their experiences of negotiating their way through relationships. She promises anonymity.

Psychologist Dr Neville Robertson, one of Ishta's degree supervisors, says Ishta's research may also assist different service providers better deal with situations of family and culture conflict. "I think the focus groups will be empowering for some women, knowing they'll be in a situation where they can openly discuss their situations and bounce ideas off one another."

For more information, contact Ishta Singh on [email protected]

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