Theories of Formation, Maintenance and Breakdown

Comparison table of the theories.

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Theories of relationship formation, maintenance and breakdown
Theories of Reasons for formation of relationship Reasons for maintenance of relationship Reasons for breakdown of relationship
Matching hypothesis This theory explains that people who are similar in Matched couples tend to have long lastingA couple may be matched together and
(Walster et al., 1966) many ways end up together. Those that are socially relationships than mismatched couples may be compatible in terms of social
desirable have expectations for their partner to be desirability, however they may have
also. conflicting personalities which may cause
disagreements and lead to a break up.
Similarity theory People sort potential partners for dissimilarity, Having a partner with similar attitudes to Research suggests that similarity is more
(Byrne, Clore & avoiding those whose personality or attitudes appear our own is in itself reinforcing, so similarity
often the rule in longterm relationship but
Smeaton, 1986) too different from their own. can be seen as an extension of the there are couples who are complete
From those remaining, they are most likely to reward/need satisfaction theory opposites of each other which may lead to
choose someone who is similar to themselves break up.
Reward/need We form relationships because we find them The needs of the individuals in the One member of the couple may not be
satisfaction model rewarding both through direct and indirect relationships are continually being satisfiedreceiving any positive reinforcement
(Byrne & Clore, 1970) reinforcement and they are able to satisfy our needs. and they are both continuing to receive through the relationship and their needs
rewards. may not be being met.
Social exchange theory The couple explore the rewards and the costs of the People try to negotiate in order to If there are more costs than rewards in a
(Thibaut & Kelly, relationship. The couple then negotiate the maximise the rewards they obtain from a relationship, this may lead to breakdown
1959) relationship. Once they have formed the relationship relationship and minimise the costs. because it may seem as though rewards
the exchange of rewards is predictable. are not being reciprocated.
Equity theory (Walster A person may have met another person who they In a relationship fairness is more important If the relationship is inequitable it produces
et al, 1978) believe is capable of appropriately balancing the than profit. It states that there must be a distress, particularly for the disadvantaged
rewards and costs of a relationship balance in order to maintain a relationship. individual. If there is no chance of
restoring equity, the relationship ends.
Investment model A person may form a relationship because they may The maintenance of a relationship is Commitment can be weakened by the
(Rusbult, 1983) think that they may get a lot out of this relationship if
determined by commitment. Commitment presence of alternatives to the relationship.
they invest time, effort, finances etc. refers to the likelihood that the relationship
If the alternative seems attractive they may
will persist and can be strengthened by leave their relationship.
satisfaction and investment.
Lee's model of The resolution stage of this model could Sees the breakdown of a relationship as a
relationship dissolution explain that there are attempts to resolve process occurring over time, rather than a
(1984) any problems the couple may have which single event.

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Rollie & Duck's Expartners begin to organise their postrelationship After the breakdown stage the couple Dissatisfied partner focuses on their
(2006) model of lives and begin to publicise their own accounts of the reevaluate their relationship and talk to partner's `faults' and feels `under
relationship breakdown breakdown. each other about the problems or perceived benefited'. Dyadic processes may bring up
They recreate a sense of their own social value, inequalities. This may result in reasons for leaving the relationship.…read more


Eireann Attridge

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