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Race, romance and commitment.

In a study that examined the level of romantic commitment among black and white college-aged couples, researchers at Washington University found that the races are equally committed in dating relationships, despite a severe gender imbalance among blacks. In fact, attitudes don't differ between the races; they differ between the sexes.

In assessing 20 black and 20 white dating couples with at least one member of each pair in college, Larry E. Davis, associate professor of social work and psychology, and Michael Strube, professor of psychology, expected that black men would be less committed to their partners than white males were to theirs because the former face a relatively large pool of available dating partners. Excluding postwar shortages of men, the American black population today has the severest shortage of men in a subcultural group in modern history. On a college campus, the female-to-male ratio among blacks is two-to-one and among whites it is six-to-five. (In the general population, the ratio for blacks is 10-to-seven and for whites, 10-to-nine.)

Historically, social psychologists have argued that a significant gender imbalance creates social havoc. For example, the group in large supply (in this case, black women) would be devalued, while that in short supply (black men) would steer away from commitment because of the great availability of romantic partners. Yet, despite this imbalance, "we didn't find even a hint of difference between blacks and whites. Black men aren't playing the field like they could. They are a hot commodity, so to speak, given the relative numbers of black men available as dating partners. I think this says something very positive about blacks and romance. What we usually hear about black relationships is that women are heading households because men are dumping and leaving them. At least in terms of this demographic group, we can say it isn't happening," Strube indicates.

The researchers cite two possible reasons why the high number of available women did not alter the level of commitment in black males. First, the subjects were younger than in most studies - a point that raises some interesting questions, Davis notes. "It's possible a diminishing sense of commitment will manifest itself later, but it's worth exploring why that would happen in an older adult, when he or she presumably has more invested in the relationship. Why doesn't that happen with the younger population as well?" The "real-world concerns" of older adults - such as a career, mortgage, and children - may muddy the waters. As the intensity and number of a person's commitments increase, commitment within the romantic relationship may diminish.

The study datected other differences in attitude toward commitment between men and women, regardless of race. Appearance was more important for males. The more attractive men believed their partners to be, the more committed they were to the relationship. For females, a high level of satisfaction in the relationship meant a high level of commitment. No direct correlation between satisfaction and commitment was found for men.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Next Article:Don't be stupid under the sun.

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