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Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth Between Love and Arranged Marriages

Statement of the problem

The main problem is stated by N. Netting in the following way: Indo-Canadian young people are nowadays living a dual life: on the one hand, they are successfully integrating into the Western society and learning its family patterns; on the other, they still remain a part of the ethnic community with a distinct system of gender roles and family structure. As a result, they vacillate between “love marriages”, attributed to the younger Western community; on the other, their family life is pre-arranged by their parents or caregivers who still follow Indian traditions.

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The commonly accepted combined sociological approach of assimilation-modernization states that the change of family patterns from agrarian to those which develop in industrialized societies occurs quite quickly in immigrants, who assimilate with the North American society. Agrarian values are still strong in the Indian society: “People live in multigenerational households, where parents guide each child into a religious tradition, a hereditary occupation, and an arranged marriage. A person weds whoever is best for the family, and for the larger groups in which the family is embedded” (Netting, 2006, p.130). Canada, on the contrary, is described as an industrialized country, whose society has greater adherence to individualism and whose family-building patterns imply that parents should give children an opportunity to choose their profession, place of residence, and partner or spouse. Although it is stated that the second generation of immigrants normally embraces the culture of the country of residence and thus Indo-Canadian youth theoretically follow the family patterns of the industrialized society. However, there is a number of processes, which prevent Indo-Canadian youth from assimilation, so there is a need for an empirical study, which specifies the cultural change in terms of what Indo-Canadian are doing to negotiate between “love marriage” and “arranged marriage” in mate selection.

The purpose of the writing

The purpose of the writing is to expand knowledge about the marriage patterns and choices of Indo-Canadian youth, in particular about the ways they balance between the possibilities of “love marriage” and “arranged marriage”: “This study asks how Indo-Canadian young people negotiate between the two possibilities, and how their discussions and decisions bring about cultural change” (Netting, 2006, p.129).

The main idea of the article

The author actually does not defend any position. Instead, N.Netting concludes from her literature review that theorists identify four phenomena or processes which determine the integration of Indo-Canadians into the Canadian society, which are modernization, neo-traditionalism, cultural synthesis, and Indian-based feminism. Further, the research questions are posed: To what extent and in which ways do these four social forces influence the marital decisions to influence marital decisions of Indo-Canadian youth? In which ways does mate selection implicate the cultural change in the Indo-Canadian community?


In the methodology section, the author states: “The research is based on in-depth interviews with 27 Indo-Canadian youths, all in their twenties, never married, of Indian heritage and permanently residing in Canada” (Netting, 2006, p.131). The sample was selected according to the snowball principle, i.e. the scholar first interviewed several respondents she knew and the other participants were selected following their recommendations. The interviews lasted between one and three hours each, twenty-two of them were conducted face-to-face, five respondents were interviewed via phone. In order to avoid the possible gender-related inconveniences, only female members of the research group were allowed to interview female respondents.

The sample was composed of 13 males and 14 females, aged 20-27 from 24 families. The sample appeared to be diverse by religious background, as there were seventeen Sikhs, five Hindus, three Christians, and two Muslims. 20 families were of Indian descent, one each of the Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Fiji, and Ugandan. The participants had grown up in different provinces of Canada, “in communities ranging from large cities to very small towns. All had attended at least some college; their educational attainment ranged from vocational diplomas through current enrollment in postgraduate professional programs” (Netting, 2006, p.132).

Discussion of the results

First of all, the investigation suggests that Indian communities are characterized by exceptional unity. In particular, the respondents indicate that Indians gather for worship, festivals, weddings and work together on the establishment of the places of worship. Therefore, the whole community learns about its member’s romance in a few days owing to gossips.

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Growing up in Canada, all participants adopted the Canadian lifestyle, as they cut their hair, began to wear jeans, made friends with Canadian-born whites, played in sports teams, and joined rock bands. Such behavior brought about a number of conflicts with parents. Half of the male participants reported having a romance in high school, whereas only one young woman had boyfriends before graduating from school. All-female participants indicated that their parents were opposed to the daughters engaging in any relationship with a male, which could potentially result in sexual contact. In their twenties, the participants’ identities formed, and the majority believe they have combined the elements of the Indian and Canadian lifestyles.

In the context of mate selection, most respondents prioritize romantic love, which refers to Western ideals. However, four female participants state that they entrust the practice of finding a spouse for them to their families. They recognize the importance of timing, i.e. the young women feel they need to complete their education before getting married. Five participants were found to reject the tradition of arranged marriages, “a major factor was a well-developed individualism: unusual interests coupled with the will to fight for them” (Netting, 2006, p.137). Another factor is the negative experience (unfulfilling marriage, dysfunctional family) of the parents of the ‘rebels’. These five respondents also hold that they lack involvement in the Indo-Canadian community.

Two-thirds of the respondents assume they are willing to find a partner by themselves, but will anyway seek parental consent. The first negotiation technique they use is secret dating after entering college. Further, they select mates only from culturally approved communities and believe they will get married by parental arrangement if they fail to find a worthy candidate. Finally, male respondents from the group of ‘negotiators’ report they never try to find a steady mate and delay their marriage, enjoying the freedom in relationships with the opposite gender.

In the context of the cultural change, the evidence suggests that the participants are more adherent to the “love marriage’ ideology, which points to their partial assimilation; participants also demonstrate cultural synthesis, believing that love is presented in Canadian and Indian cultures in a similar way. At the same time, the phenomenon of neo-traditionalism is manifested through the strong bonds the participants have with their parents and community. Finally, “they also used an Indian perspective to “leap over” the love-conquerors-all discourse which leads many North Americans into trouble (Indian feminism)” (Netting, 2006, p.143).

Evaluation of the writing

The main points of the article are presented clearly, as the author manages to maintain the main focus of the study in the Results and Discussion sections. The answer to the research question is multifaceted, and the author presents all important factors that influence the marital decisions of Indo-Canadian youth, further knitting them into the discussion of the cultural change within the Indo-Canadian population. Each argument is supported by a citation from the interview, which explains the logic of the statement. Moreover, for greater objectivity, the author presents a lot of viewpoints, classifying them into three groups: traditionalism, rebellion, and negotiation. Due to the fact that each of the choices underlies a number of reasons and experiences, the author also addresses the dynamism of the young peoples’ outlook, beliefs, and values. Therefore, the most important knowledge the article provides is the picture of the cultural transformation of the above-specified minority population and the interaction between Canadian and Indian values and practices. The results of the study to great extent change my beliefs about Indo-Canadian youth, in particular about their conformity to the caste system and the principles of mate’s cultural appropriateness. I always thought it was quite difficult to reproduce the caste system out of India, given the differences between Canada and India, especially in terms of governance, labor market, and social policy. However, the study suggests that rigid social stratification is still an important part of Indo-Canadians’ life.

Works cited

Netting, N. (2006) “Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth between Love and Arranged Marriages”. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37 (1), 129-146.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 23). Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth Between Love and Arranged Marriages.

Work Cited

"Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth Between Love and Arranged Marriages." StudyCorgi, 23 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth Between Love and Arranged Marriages." December 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth Between Love and Arranged Marriages." December 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth Between Love and Arranged Marriages." December 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth Between Love and Arranged Marriages'. 23 December.

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