Formation, maintenance and breakdown of relationships

Just a set of cards outlining the theories to the formation, maintenance and breakdown of relationships, including research studies and IDAs.

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  • Created by: lauren
  • Created on: 13-01-13 18:39

Reward theory (formation and maintenance)

We are attracted to those whose presence is rewarding meeting biologically based social needs (sex) and emotional needs (sense of belonging).

The more rewards someone provides, the more attracted we are to them.

Rusbult & Van Lange - "rewards determine how a relationship develops - intimacy develops as more personal information is disclosed. Self-disclosure allows casual relationships to develop into more rewarding ones."

Exposure & Familiarity - initial exposure allows attraction to form, familiarity (repeated exposure) allows it to develop.

Similarity - beliefs, attitudes and values are particularly important. It increases our self-esteem to have someone agree, makes communication easier and it's easier to find joint activities.

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Reward theory - AO2 For

Saegert et al (1973) Taste of strangers experiment (support for exposure/familiarity) - female pps taste liquids in a cubicle with another student once, twice, five or ten times. The more interactions, the greater the attraction.
Supports because initial exposure allows an attraction to be established, but repeat exposure and therefore familiarity developing increases attraction. AO3: relies on questionnaire, demand characteristics. girls pps, gender bias.

Byrne et al (1968) support for similarity, Fake informaiton on the 'other half' made them seem to have similar attitudes on pps on either 25% or 75% of topics. Only when similarity to the topics of most importance to the pps that it affected attraction.
Supports because it shows that similarity does have an impact on attraction, those with similar attitudes on important topics are more likely to form a relationship on higher attraction.

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Reward theory - AO2 Against

Hays (1985) - found that students favoured fairness and gave priority to rewarding the other person in a relationships.
Contradicts reward theory as it shows individuals enjoy providing for their partner, not focusing on a reward. AO3: only student relationships

Lott (1993) - compared couples in different cultures. women are socialised into being more attentive to the needs of others rather than their own.
Contradicts reward theory as it shows that there may be a gender bias in reward theory that isn't accounted for, not considering the differences between men and women.

& Reward theory does not take into account for unrewarding relationships, such as abusive and arranged marraiges.

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Social Exchange Theory (formation, maintenance and

People are fundamentally selfish, viewing feelings for others in terms of profits. People aim to minimise costs (money, time, emotional costs e.g. jealousy) and maximise rewards (emotional affection received etc). We may compare our relationships to previous ones or alternative ones to determine how profitable it would be to stay in.

Rusbult - "when investments are high (children, mortgage) and alternatives are low (no money, custody battles) this is considered a profit situation."

Matching Hypothesis - more likely to become romantically involved with those who are similar in ability to reward one and other. We are happy with someone who we feel will not reject us rather than the one we positively desire.

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Social Exchange Theory - AO2 For

Hatfield et al (1979) newly weds satisfaction - underbenefitted report lowest satisfaction levels and report anger. Overbenefit come next, feeling guilty. Those in equitable relationships highest level of satisfaction. Argyle added men who over-benefitted were just as satisfied.
Supports because it shows that if people are not in a profitable relationship, they feel unsatisfied. However, although it supports by showing men feel satisfied in a profitable relationship where they over-benefit, women do not, suggesting a gender bias.

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Social Exchange Theory - AO2 Against

Sedikides (2005) - being in close relationships leads us to be capable of being altruistic (opposite of being selfish), when we bolster our partners self-systems when they are faced with failure.
Contradicts SET because it shows that we seek to satisfy partners needs as well as supporting them, instead of being selfish and only considering ourselves.

Walster et al (1966) against MH - physical attractiveness was the most important factor in determining how much students liked their partner, and in determining how likely male students were to ask females regardless of their own attraction rating (made by unseen observer)
Contradicts the Matching Hypothesis as it shows that male individuals do not seem to fear rejection, asking out female students that aren't closely physically matched to them. AO3: only students, unseen observer may have bias in rating attraction, artificial set up of dance, good sample size (752 M and F students)

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There are two IDAs that can be used to criticise both the Reward Theory and the Social Exchange Theory, here they are in basic!

Reductionist; SET/Reward Theory provides a simple and coherant account for the formation and maintenance of relationships, providing a bridge between explanations of inital attraction/formation and maintenance, however it is over simplistic, reducing complicated cognitive functions to the basis that people are fundamentally selfish. It is therefore limited...

Determinism vs Free Will; SET/Reward Theory suffers from the issue of determinisim, stating people view relationships in terms of profits, ignoring free will. The actual process of forming and maintaining a relationship is much more complicated...

Expand these of course! Give examples from your research. If your desperate for another IDA, try mentioning a gender bias...

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Breakdown of relationships - Duck's phase model

Intra-Psychic phase - one partner privately perceives dissatisfaction, considers costs of withdrawal, expresses dilema...

Dyadic phase - dissatisfaction is discussed. If not resolved, there is a move to the next stage...

Social phases - breakdown is made public. There is negotiation about children, finances, and soon wider family and friends become involved. Group discussion is initiated, public blame placing accounts are made.

Grave-Dressing phase - a post-relationship view of the break-up is establish, protecting self-estreem and rebuilding life towards new relationships.

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Duck's Phase Model - AO2 For

Gray & Silver (1990) - 45 couples filed for divorce. Men and owmen protect their self-esteem by providing their own perceived version of events which places them in a more favourable light (man; "I met another woman who is younger and better looking" woman "he left me for a real bimbo")
Supports Duck's Phase Model as it shows that the grave-dressing phase is correct, individuals view their actions in the ending of a relationship as justified in order to move on and protect self-estem. AO3: marraige couples only, small sample size

Breakdown is not inevitable unless threshold is reached, Duck's model is useful for marraige guidance.
Addressed feelings and thoughts as well as behaviour, taking into account of some complexity of a relationship break up.

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Duck's Phase Model - AO2 Against

Kassin (1996) - women stress unhappiness and imcompatibility as reasons for breakdown, men blame lack of sex. Women wish to remain friends, men want a clean break.

Argyle (1988) - women identify a lack of emotional support for the relationship ending, men complain for an absense of fun.

Both pieces of research contradicts Duck's model as they suggest it only focuses on the breakdown of a relationship, saying nothing of the events leading up to the breakdown. It is descriptive rather than explanatory. It also ignored individual differences, assuming all relationships go through the same stages.

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Lee's Stage Model (1984) (breakdown)

Dissatisfaction - an individual becomes dissatisfied with relationship

Exposure - disatisfaction is revealed to the partner

Negotiation - discussion occurs over the nature of dissatisfaction

Resolution attempted - attempts made to fix the problem and to repair relationship

Termination - if not resolved, the relationship is over

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Lee's Stage Model - AO2 Evaluation

Lee's model was created after carrying out a survey of 112 non-marital romantic relationship break-ups. Negotiation and exposure were most destressing & exhausting. Those who skipped these, going straight to termination were those with less intimate relationships.

Can be applied to real-life situations! It is therefore valid.

However only for non-marital relationships.

Can be used to marraige counselling.

Lee's theory is more positive, seeing more opportunities to save a relationship.

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