Maintenance of relationships

Theories/models of how we maintain relationships

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Social exchange model (Homan 1961)

The theory takes into account 'give and take'. It see's relationships as a series of exchanges, where everyone tries to maximise 'profits' and minimise interpersonal loss. All relationships are govern by self interest.

Relationships will form and develop when

1) Rewards out weigh the costs

2) Actual rewards exceed expected rewards - comparison level (CL). This is when the rewards and costs are better than previous relationships. 

3) The rewards from other possible relationships is not better - comparison level for alternative (CL alt)

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Social exchange model

Therefore, if a rich but unattractive man looks for a young and beautiful woman and a young but poor woman seeks a rich man, their relationship can be seen as a exchange. 

Thibaut and Kelley (1976) expanded on Homan's theory into 4 stages. 

1) Sampling - The cost and rewards are explored with possible partners ('window shopping'). CL and Cl alt are taken into account.

2) Bargaining - The couple look at the potential costs and profits

3) Commitment - Exchange of rewards and the acceptance of costs. More focus on the relationship.

4) Institutionalisation - The couple settle into the relationship and social rules established and kept to. 

Miller and Steinburg (1975) suggest the social exchange theory is like a set of rules that must be followed to keep the relationship.

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Social exchange theory (AO2/AO3)

This is a improvement to the Reinforcement-affection theory because it considers 'give and take' in the formation of relationships. This explains why women in abusive relationships choose to stay in the relationship. Rusbult and Martz (1995) argue that a high investment (e.g. children, financial support, etc) keep her form leaving. 

Support for the CL idea can be found when people in relationships deal with other potential relationships. Simpson et al (1990) found that ptp's with partners would rate members of the opposite sex as less attractive than those ptps who were single. 

However, the main criticism of the theory is the focus on selfishness, that people are motivated to stay in relationships that offer 'profit' and minimize interpersonal loss. The maintenance of  relationship described by this theory is reductionist too. There is no clear definition of reward or cost, as it will vary from person to person. 

Finally, people relationships are motivated to achieve fairness, rather than profit.

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Equity theory

This theory is developed from social exchange theory, it argues relationships are more about fairness rather than 'profit'. People will feel stressed if they believe there is no fairness. We don't consider the rewards and cost of ourselves, but those of our partners too. This theory can be summarised into 4 principles. 

1) The amount of rewards and costs are balanced for each partner. 

2) Each partner know what they deserve in terms of input and output and each of them feel it is fair. 

3) In a inequitable relationship, the couple will try to re-establish balance to try to save the relationship. 

4) A inequitable relationship will cause personal distress, this will cause a large amount of strain on the couple. 

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Equity theory (AO2)

Evidence has found that sanctification can be found in a equitable relationship, whilst a inequitable relationship will lead to distress and unhappiness. 

Sprecher (1986) found a different reaction to inequity in men and women. 

Over benefited - Men - Guilt

- Women - anger and frustration

Under benefited - Men - Anger

  - Women - Depressed

Bruunk and Van Yperen (1991) found that married couple in equitable relationships were the happiest. Those who felt under benefited felt the least satisfied and those over benefited were in the middle. 

On a further study they found that being over benefited lead to dissatisfaction in women only, twice as many women compared to men felt under benefited and mor men than women felt over benefited

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Equity theory

1) Many of the studies have been criticised as they lack ecological validity and mundane realism due to the use of artificial methodologies. Ragsdale and Brndau-Brown (2007) reject the claim that equity is a key determinant in the satisfaction of relationships. It doesn't reflect the way long term partners behave towards each other. Feeney et al (1994) found equity theory also fails to account the considerable variation in modern relationships. 

2) Moghaaddam (1998) suggests equity theory only applies to short term, western relationships with high social mobility, like students. In short term relationships, fairness is seen to be very important. But in long term relationships, where there is little social mobility security is seen as more important than personal 'profit'

3) Clark and mills (1993) argue the theory ignores the copmplexity of relationships and that not all are based on equity. They argue people care about the needs of others less than equity. The believe that in a relationship rewards and costs will eventually balance out. 

4) Strong emotions such as love and jealousy take over, so there is no rational thinking about rewards and costs. 

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