People in Western cultures tend to assume that the marriage relationship is the most important relationship in life. Does this assumption apply in other cultural contexts? Three studies compared Taiwanese and European American beliefs about the priority of family relationships, using hypothetical life-or-death and everyday situations. In all three studies and in both situations, Taiwanese participants were more likely than European Americans to choose to help their mothers instead of their spouses. Furthermore, Taiwanese were more likely than European Americans to choose to help their mothers instead of their sibling or their own child. Mediation analyses indicated that obligation and closeness accounted for the association between culture and certainty of saving the mother or the spouse in the life-or-death situation. In the everyday situation, obligation alone accounted for this association. These findings have implications for Western theories of close relationships, such as attachment theory.
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