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Discuss two or more theories of maintenance in romantic relationships
Maintenance is seen as the stage where you are trying to uphold a relationship. According to the
theories of maintenance. There are 2 theories that can help explain maintenance in romantic
relationships. The Social Exchange Theory (SET) and the Investment theory (IT).
The Social exchange theory is seen as an economic model for human behaviour, it discusses the
maintenance of a relationship in terms of rewards and cost. Greater rewards leads to a longer lasting
relationship, examples of rewards are gifts and compliments we might share in a relationship.
However a negative outcome can arise when costs come into the relationship, such as arguing or bad
habits or moaning. This theory states that people try and maximise rewards and minimise cost and
wish to get more out than they invest in. Researchers such as Thaibult and Kelly found that we base
this exchange of rewards and cost on actual rewards. They stated we use two dimensions,
comparison level (Cl) and comparison level alternatives (Clt alt). CL is made up of expectations about
what we deserve
from a relationship and it is made up of past experiences such as previous relationships, family or the
media. Clt alt. looking at other alternatives and considering the rewards or costs they would offer.
Research to support this is found by Simpson et al, he said that when people are in a satisfying
relationship (profitable), they are less likely to look elsewhere and be interested in alternatives.
Simpson et al found that pps in relationships gave lower attractiveness ratings of a stranger than
those who were not in a relationship. This supports the claim that when we are satisfied we are less
likely to look for alternatives. However this research could be improved by testing people who are
satisfied differ to the ratings compared to those who are dissatisfied. This would give us a better
understanding about the role `alternatives' play in maintenance of a relationship.
A weakness of much of the research to support SET is it was conducted on short-term relationships,
and short term does not account for long term. This gives an unrepresentative view of maintenance
of a romantic relationship. Further research needs to be carried out with couples who have had or are
currently in a long-term relationship in order to understand maintenance of a relationship better.
However a strength of this theory is `CL' makes the theory less simplistic than other alternatives
theories. They explain why some people still remain in seemingly unrewarding relationships. This is
because the cost of ending the relationship is far worse than remaining in it, or because the person's
expectations are low. For example Sue is fine with her husband going to the pub after work and
coming home late, this is because her previous husband was violent and didn't want children;
however the current husband is more desirable than the previous.
The second theory is the Investment theory/ Model (I.T). This revolved around commitment; meaning
the likelihood of the relationship being maintained. According to the I.T there are 3 factors affecting
commitment, they are; satisfaction, quality of alternatives and investment. Satisfaction is the amount
derived from the relationship, quality of alternatives is the presence of possible alternatives could
weaken the relationship and lastly investment is the level of investment made.it is suggested that
these 3 factors would affect the commitment of the relationship and its chances of being maintained.
Research by Rusbult was forwarded to test her Investment Theory. She asked college students in
heterosexual relationships to complete a questionnaire over a 7 month period. She found that those
who had high levels of investment and satisfaction and low levels of looking for alternatives were
more likely to stay in a committed relationship, whereas those who had low levels of investment and
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satisfaction, with high levels for alternatives were more likely to break up. This supports the IT theory
because it suggests that the factors that Rusbult identified do in fact affect the level of commitment
in a relationship, therefore validating the model.
A problem with their study is their sample, they were all students, this makes it difficult to generalise
their results to the wider population. This gives an unrepresentative view of relationships from a
student's perspective.…read more