Intimate Relationships and Happiness in Asia: A Critical Review

  • Hung-Kit Fok
  • Sheung-Tak ChengEmail author
Part of the Cross-Cultural Advancements in Positive Psychology book series (CAPP, volume 13)


In this chapter, Asian literature on the association between intimate relationships and happiness is reviewed. In particular, marital status and relationship quality is focused upon. In general, both marital status and relationship quality are positively related to happiness in Asian context, but there is no clear indication that such relationships differed between men and women. On the whole, the association between intimate relationship and happiness in Asian studies is similar to that found in Western literature. However, indigenous constructs such as role obligations, enqing, and responsibility are important in furthering our understanding of the nature of close relationships in Asia. Recommendations for future studies are also discussed.


Intimate relationships Happiness Asia Relationship quality Indigenous constructs 


  1. Antonucci, T., Akiyama, H., & Takahashi, K. (2004). Attachment and close relationships across the life span. Attachment & Human Development, 6(4), 353–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asano, R. (2011). Effects of relational efficacy on emotional experiences in romantic relationships: An intersubjective efficacy expectation. Japanese Journal of Social Psychology, 27, 41–46.Google Scholar
  3. Bond, M. H. (2010). The Oxford handbook of Chinese psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., & Rodgers, W. L. (1976). The quality of American life: Perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  5. Chang, W. C. (2009). Social capital and subjective happiness in Taiwan. International Journal of Social Economics, 36(8), 844–868.Google Scholar
  6. Chen, F. M., & Li, T. S. (2007). Marital Enqing: An examination of its relationship to spousal contributions, sacrifices, and family stress in Chinese marriages. The Journal of Social Psychology, 147(4), 393–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen, H., & Tian, X. (2010). Research on the relationship between marital quality and psychological wellbeing of new countryside women. Modern Preventive Medicine, 37(22), 4269–4272 In Chinese.Google Scholar
  8. Cheng, S.-T., & Chan, A. C. M. (2006a). Filial piety and psychological Well-being in well older Chinese. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 61B(5), 262–269. Scholar
  9. Cheng, S.-T., & Chan, A. C. M. (2006b). Relationship with others and life satisfaction in later life: Do gender and widowhood make a difference? Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 61B(1), 46–53. Scholar
  10. Cheng, S.-T., Chi, I., Fung, H. H., Li, L. W., & Woo, J. (2015). Successful aging: Asian perspectives. Dordrecht, The Netherland: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cheng, S.-T., Lam, L. C. W., Kwok, T., Ng, N. S. S., & Fung, A. W. T. (2013). Self-efficacy is associated with less burden and more gains from behavioral problems of Alzheimer’s disease in Hong Kong Chinese caregivers. The Gerontologist, 53(1), 71–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cheng, S. T., Li, K. K., Leung, E. M. F., & Chan, A. C. M. (2011). Social exchanges and subjective well-being: Do sources of positive and negative exchanges matter? The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66B(6), 708–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (2002). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.Google Scholar
  14. Demir, M. (2010). Close relationships and happiness among emerging adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11, 293–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Demir, M., Orthel, H., & Andelin, A. K. (2013). Friendship and happiness. In I. Boniwell, S. A. David, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.). (2013). Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 821–833). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Demir, M., Özdemir, M., & Marum, K. P. (2011). Perceived autonomy support, friendship maintenance and happiness. The Journal of Psychology, 145, 537–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DePaulo, B. (2006). Singled out: How singles are stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, and still live happily ever after. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  18. DePaulo, B. (2014). A singles studies perspective on mount marriage. Psychological Inquiry, 25(1), 64–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DePaulo, B. M., & Morris, W. L. (2005). Singles in society and in science. Psychological Inquiry, 16, 57–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. DePaulo, B. M., & Morris, W. L. (2006). The unrecognized stereotyping and discrimination against singles. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 251–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Diener, E., Gohm, C. L., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (2000). Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31(4), 419–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dion, K. L., & Dion, K. K. (1993). Gender and ethnocultural comparisons in styles of love. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 17, 463–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fok, H. K., & Shek, D. T. L. (2011). A methodological critique of parenting research in Hong Kong. International Journal of Adolescence Medicine and Health, 23(2), 93–99.Google Scholar
  25. Gallagher, E. N., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2008). Social support and emotional intelligence as predictors of subjective well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1551–1561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gove, W. R., Style, C. B., & Hughes, M. (1990). The effect of marriage on the well-being of adults: A theoretical analysis. Journal of Family Issues, 11(1), 4–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Graham, J. M., & Christiansen, K. (2009). The reliability of romantic love: A reliability generalization meta-analysis. Personal Relationships, 16, 49–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Graham, J. M., Diebels, K. J., & Barnow, Z. B. (2011). The reliability of relationship satisfaction: A reliability generalization meta-analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 39–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Graham, J. M., Liu, Y. J., & Jeziorski, J. L. (2006). The dyadic adjustment scale: A reliability generalization meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 701–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ho, D. Y., Spinks, J. A., & Yeung, C. S. H. (Eds.). (1989). Chinese patterns of behavior: A sourcebook of psychological and psychiatric studies. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  31. Ho, D. Y. F., Peng, S. Q., Lai, A. C., & Chan, S. F. (2001). Indigenization and beyond: Methodological relationalism in the study of personality across cultural traditions. Journal of Personality, 69(6), 925–995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ho, M. Y., Cheung, F. M., & Cheung, S. F. (2008). Personality and life events as predictors of adolescents’ life satisfaction: Do life events mediate the link between personality and life satisfaction? Social Indicators Research, 89(3), 457–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Inaba, A., Thoits, P. A., Ueno, K., Gove, W. R., Evenson, R. J., & Sloan, M. (2005). Depression in the United States and Japan: Gender, marital status, and SES patterns. Social Science & Medicine, 61, 2280–2292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Newton, T. L. (2001). Marriage and health: His and hers. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 472–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kwan, V. S. Y., Bond, M. H., & Singelis, T. M. (1997). Pancultural explanations for life satisfaction: Adding relationship harmony to self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1038–1051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kye, S. Y., & Park, K. H. (2014). Health-related determinants of happiness in Korean adults. International Journal of Public Health, 59, 731–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lakey, B. (2013). Perceived social support and happiness: The role of personality and relational processes. In I. Boniwell, S. A. David, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.). (2013). Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 847–859). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Li, T., & Cheng, S.-T. (2015). Family, friends, and subjective well-being: A comparison between the West and Asia. In M. Demir (Ed.), Friendship and happiness: Across the lifespan and cultures (pp. 235–247). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  39. Li, Y., Li, S., & Peng, Y. (2009). A comparison of psychological well-being between forced bachelors and married male. Population and Development, 15(4), 2–12 In Chinese.Google Scholar
  40. Liu, H. J., Li, S. S., & Feldman, M. W. (2013). Gender in marriage and life satisfaction under gender imbalance in China: The role of intergenerational support and SES. Social Indicators Research, 114, 915–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lucas, R. E., & Dyrenforth, P. S. (2006). Does the existence of social relationships matter for subjective well-being. In K. D. Vohs & E. J. Finkel (Eds.), Self and relationships: Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal process (pp. 254–273). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  42. Lucas, R. E., Dyrenforth, P. S., & Diener, E. (2008). Four myths about subjective Well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 2001–2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2013). Adult attachment and happiness: Individual differences in the experience and consequences of positive emotions. In I. Boniwell, S. A. David, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.). (2013). Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 834–846). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Miller, R., & Perlman, D. (2009). Intimate relationships (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  45. Ng, K. M., Loy, J. T. C., Gudmunson, C. G., & Cheong, W. (2009). Gender differences in marital and life satisfaction among Chinese Malaysians. Sex Roles, 60, 33–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ng, K. M., Pelsuso, P. R., & Smith, S. D. (2010). Marital satisfaction, intimacy, enqing, and relationship stressors among Asians. In J. Carlson &L. Sperry. (Eds.). (2010). Recovering intimacy in love relationships: A clinician’s guide (pp. 331–352). NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  47. Okun, M. A., Stock, W. A., Haring, M. J., & Witter, R. A. (1984). Health and subjective well-being: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 19, 111–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Oshio, T., & Kobayashi, M. (2010). Income inequality, perceived happiness, and self-rated health: Evidence from nationwide surveys in Japan. Social Science & Medicine, 70, 1358–1366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Park, Y., & Fritz, C. (2015). Spousal recovery support, recovery experiences, and life satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(2), 557–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Proulx, C. M., Helms, H. M., & Buehler, C. (2007). Marital quality and personal well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(3), 576–593.
  51. Pasch, L. A., & Bradbury, T. N. (1998). Social support, conflict, and the development of marital dysfunction. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(2), 219–230.
  52. Peiro, A. (2006). Happiness, satisfaction and socio-economic conditions: Some international evidence. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 35, 348–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pinquart, M., & Sorensen, S. (2000). Influences of socioeconomic status, social network, and competence on subjective well-being in later life: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 15, 187–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ramdas, K. (2012). Women in waiting? Singlehood, marriage, and family in Singapore. Environment and Planning A, 44(4), 832–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sandberg, J. G., Yorgason, J. B., Miller, R. B., & Hill, E. J. (2012). Family-to-work spillover in Singapore: Marital distress, physical and mental health, and work satisfaction. Family Relations, 61, 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Saphier-Bernstein, S., & Taylor, S. E. (2013). Close relationships and happiness. In I. Boniwell, S. A. David, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.). (2013). Oxford Handbook of happiness (pp. 821–833). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Shek, D. T. L. (1995). Marital quality and psychological well-being of married adults in a Chinese context. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 156, 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tsou, M. W., & Liu, J. T. (2001). Happiness and domain satisfaction in Taiwan. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2, 269–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Walen, H. R., & Lachman, M. E. (2000). Social support and strain from partner, family, and friends: Costs and benefits for men and women in adulthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 17, 5–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wang, S. Y., Wong, J., & Yeh, K. H. (2016). Relationship harmony, dialectical coping, and nonattachment: Chinese indigenous well-being and mental health. The Counseling Psychologist, 44(1), 78–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yeung, G. T. Y., & Fung, H. (2007). Social support and life satisfaction among Hong Kong Chinese older adults: Family first? European Journal of Ageing, 4, 219–227. Scholar
  62. Zhao, S. M., Wang, X. L., Lu, A. T., Jin, M., Chan, C., Xu, Y. Q., & Li, H. Z. (2011). Mediating effect of social support on relationship between romantic partner attachment and life satisfaction in undergraduate students. Chinese Mental Health Journal, 25(8), 625–629.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Early Childhood EducationThe Educational University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  2. 2.Department of Health and Physical EducationThe Educational University of Hong KongHong KongChina

Personalised recommendations