Breakdown of relationships

Lokking at reasons and how a relationship breaks down. 

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Why relationships breakdown

Duck (1999) suggested that relationships breakdown due to common problems called risk factors. These included :

Lack of skill - Some people lack social skills, so they have poor quality conversations and don't indicate interest very well. Duck (1991) argued the lack of social skills can be seen as a disinterest and lack of effort to maintain the relationship, so it breaks down.

Demogarphic factors - Bentler and Newcomb (1988) found that marriages in older couples were more likely to succeed. Jaffe and Kanter (1989) found that couples from different backgrounds were more likely to divorce. Those from lower socio-economic backgrounds or broken homes also had more unstable relationships. 

Rule breaking - Argyle and Henderson (1984) found several universal rules of a friendship. Standing up for them in their absence, sharing news of success with him/her, giving emotional support and trust and confidence in each other. Argyle and Henderson (1986) found that breaking these rules caused relationships to breakdown.

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Why relationships breakdown cont.

Cycles of negativity - Noller (1985) found that couples in a dissolving relationship are less sensitive to non-verbal signals (e.g. lack of eye contact, increase of personal space, etc). They may complain about each other, without actually paying attention to the other person's concerns. 

Lack of stimulation - Duck and Miell (1986) sometimes on partner doesn't stimulate the other enough, this lead to the feeling of less mutual interests and the feeling of disinterest. A relationship that doesn't grow can lead to it ending. 

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Rollie and Duck's (2006) relationship breakdown mo

1) Breakdown phase - One or both of the partner becomes dissatisfied/distressed. Realization of inequity can be the cause of the dissatisfaction.

2) Intra-psychic phase - The unsatisfied partner will begin to think about the costs and rewards of the relationship. Hints about their dissatisfication may be dropped, but will not openly discuss this. 

3) Dyadic phase - Partners now openly discussing the problems and trying to mend the relationship. The relationship may break up at this stage. 

4) Social phase - This involves talking to friends and family about the problems. They may help to mend the relationship or sabotage it. 

5) Grave dressing - Partners try to save face about the breakdown of the relationship, by explaining their version of events. If they seem absent from blame they will seem more appealing for another relationship. 

6) Resurrection phase - They learn from their mistakes and avoid the same problems in future.

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Relationship breakdown model (AO2/AO3)

Studies have found that social skills are important in relationships, lack of these skills can lead to break ups. Couple Coping Enhancement Training (CCET) aims to improve communications skills, issues of equity and and respect to help distressed couples. Cina et al (2003) looked at 50 relationships (averaging 12 years) who had CCET and a controlled group that hadn't. The CCET group reported better marital satisfaction. 

The study has ecological validity as it used real life couples. The study supports Duck's theory as it shows better social skill improve marital satisfaction, decreased distress and decreased chances of breakdown.

Boekhout et al (1999) had undergraduates rate the reasons for affairs for people in a committed relationship. Men were suggested to have affiairs due to lack of sexual reasons, like lack of  stimulation or variety. While women would have affairs due to lack of emotional reasons, like lack of attention and commitment. 

This study also supports Duck's theory about the importance of rule breaking and lack of stimulation, how they cause breakdown of relationships. However, the study only used students.

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Relationship breakdown model (AO2/AO3) cont.

Tashiro and Frazier (2003) looked at undergraduates who had recently broke up with their partners and found that they had experienced emotional distress and personal growth. They had gain a better image of what they wanted in future relationships, this supports the resurrection phase. Weber et al (1983) found evidence to support the grave dressing concept, as many couples tried to rebuild their self concepts and get on with life.  Duck also suggests that repair to relationships should differ, depending on the breakdown stage the relationship was in. 

It has also been found that women are more sensitive to relationships failing to meet expectations. However, dissatisfication seems to be the same for both sexes. 

Finally, there are also cultural differences, in the importance of the different stages. Masuada (2001) found that the social phase was very important in japan when it came to sorting out problems in the relationship.

Problems with the theory included that fact that breakdown on relationships can be more complex, therefore the theory is reductionist and there is actually no set order in the the way a relationship breaks down.

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Jason Lang


Thank you so much for this... I have a new teacher this year and she's pretty terrible and never comes into school. So this helped ALOT!

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