Examining Equity Theory across Cultures


  • Katherine Aumer-Ryan
  • Elaine C. Hatfield
  • Rosemary Frey


In order to better understand culture’s role between perceived equity in one’s romantic relationship and relationship satisfaction, we sampled two groups from different cultural
backgrounds and attempted to answer the question of whether culture would impact the relationship between equity and relationship satisfaction. We interviewed men and women
from the University of Hawai’i (UH), a relatively individualist culture, and from the University of the West Indians in Jamaica (UWI), considered a more collectivistic culture. We had them fill out surveys detailing how equitable they saw their relationship, how important they considered equity to be in their relationship, and how satisfied they were in their relationship. A significant interaction was found between culture and equity in predicting
relationship satisfaction. As predicted, in both countries participants considered equity to be of critical importance in romantic relationships. However, men and women in Hawai’i
generally considered their relationships to be (slightly) more equitable and far more satisfying than did people in Jamaica. There were also cultural differences in how people reacted to existing inequities. The UH sample was more satisfied in their romantic relationships, especially when the relationship was equitable. However, the UWI sample found their relationships to be most satisfying when they were overbenefitting from their
relationships. We posit that the collectivist culture of our UWI participants affected the relationship between equity and relationship satisfaction. Considering the emphasis placed
on roles and familial kin support in Jamaica, we can deduce that equity may be of less importance in affecting relationship satisfaction.