Breakdown of relationships: social exchange theory

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Psychology unit 3 relationships revision
Breakdown of relationships- social exchange theory
This states that a relationship may break down if the rewards are less than the
costs and therefore the current relationship is worse than the comparison level. It
is thought that after a while some relationship become boring. This means that the
costs are larger than the rewards. Also a lack of stimulation or a perception of
inequality can lead to relationships breaking down. There may also be maintenance
difficulties with the relationship in terms of effort, arguments and jealousy and if
the person moves away then there may be more maintenance difficulties. If there
were more maintenance difficulties now than in previous relationships then the
risk of breakup increases. However, break up may not occur if the cost of
breaking up with someone is great or if there is no alternative partner. A
relationship can breakdown if someone better comes along and the rewards of
going out with this new person are greater than the costs of leaving their current
Holt and Stone found there is little decrease in long distance relationships as
long as partners are able to reunite regularly. This doesn't support the theory as
it says that long distance relationships can work so rewards don't need to out way
the costs.
Ciha found that 50 couples who received CBT (improves communication and
equity) had better marital quality. This supports the idea that less maintenance
difficulties are good for relationships.
Baxter found that people often report a reason for a breakdown as being
boredom. This supports the idea that a lack of stimulation means fewer rewards so
the relationship ends.
Some people leave when there is no alternative and the theory can't explain this
as it says in order for a relationship to end there must be an alternative but this
isn't always the case.
Profits aren't always as important as equity. It doesn't include balances in a
relationship, so it is reductionist
Measuring costs and rewards is subjective and hard to measure so predictions
are inaccurate.


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