Identity and Upbringing: South Asian Young British Muslims, Love Relationships and Views of Marriage
This paper draws on a book ‘Identity and Upbringing’ which explores parenting and growing in the context of South Asian (Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian) Muslim families living in Britain. Here the focus is particularly on one question: how do young people’s romantic relationships and attitudes toward marriage relate to important aspects of growing up and intergenerational relationships?
Romantic relationships are defining features of the teenage years (Connolly and McIsaac, 2011) but are often volatile, short lengthened, focused on present companionships and sexual experimentation rather than on the stronger levels of commitment more typical of the years ahead. However, psychologists have argued that teenagers’ love relationships have important developmental value with implications for future attachment and identity development (Furman and Shaffer, 2003).
The paper draws on insights from interviews (N=52) conducted with parents and young people aged 14-19 years old in different regions of England. Findings suggest that the intimate lives of some of the young people in the study were secret and fugitive. Even though young Muslim’ stories were not at all unique to their ethnic and religious groups, there was a sense that some religious and cultural norms posed some ‘extra challenges’ affecting the emotional sphere. Marriage was perceived as a family matter with specific functions, including the transmission and perpetration of culture and status. The preferences for intra-ethnic and intra-faith marriage reflected intergenerational differences about the importance of maintaining the continuity of religion and South Asian cultures, but also of social status.