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How Couples Manage Interracial and Intercultural Differences: Implications for Clinical Practice


  • Gita Seshadri, Ph.D., LMFT is a therapist at the Betty Ford Center and an adjunct faculty member at both Northcentral University and Brandman University (Chapman University); Carmen Knudson-Martin, Ph.D., is a professor and director of the Ph.D., program in Marital and Family Therapy, Department of Counseling and Family Sciences, Loma Linda University.

  • The authors wish to acknowledge the important contributions of Patricia de Freitas, PhD, Barbara Hernandez, PhD, and Colwick Wilson, PhD in the development and interpretation of this study.

Address correspondence to Gita Seshadri, PO Box 6984, La Quinta, CA 92248; E-mail:


This study focused on how couples managed their interracial and intercultural differences. To understand their experiences, a qualitative grounded theory analysis was used (n = 17). Analysis revealed that couples experienced most issues as cultural issues; race only occurred during their interactions with “others.” They appeared to organize their responses according to four relationship structures: Integrated, Singularly Assimilated, Coexisting, and Unresolved. Couples in each of these structures managed daily process through four sets of relationship strategies: (a) creating a “we,” (b) framing differences, (c) emotional maintenance, and (d) positioning in relationship to familial and societal context. These findings are a step toward a strength-based and research-informed education and clinical interventions for this population.

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