Para-Social Relationships

  • Created by: frankie11
  • Created on: 27-04-19 13:12

Para-social Relationships

-          Para-Social Relationships: a one-sided relationship, in which one member is very heavily invested whereas the other member has little or no awareness of their existence.

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-          Common: para-social relationships are common in society, especially between celebrities and their fans. However, they can happen in other situations, such as brands and customers, fictional characters and readers and teachers and students.

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McCutcheon (2002)

-          McCutcheon (2002): suggested that para-social relationships in some way make up for deficits in real life relationships. It provides a sense of identity that may be missing. They can feel addictive, causing the individual to develop more through a series of phases.

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Celebrity Attitudes Scale (Levels of para-social r

-          The Celebrity Attitudes Scale (McCutcheon and Maltby): classifies the extent of attitudes and behaviours:

-          Entertainment Social: celebrities are discussed between friends or colleagues for fun. This is normal.

-          Intense Personal: characterised by obsessive thoughts and emotions. Individual starts to feel that the relationship is in some way real.

-          Borderline Pathological: extreme uncontrollable behaviours towards the celebrity such as stalking.

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Absorption-Addiction Model

-          The Absorption-Addiction Model (McCutcheon): suggests that para-social relationships form because an individual wants to escape the reality of their own lives:

-          Absorption: the individual tries to find out information about the celebrity and their personal life. This is in attempt to feel closer to them.

-          Addiction: the relationship starts to feel like a drug addiction, becoming more extreme. It may result in an attempt to contact the celebrity or stalk them.

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Bowlby's Attachment Theory

-          Attachment: it is thought that para-social relationships form due to a faulty internal working model. Also, it is thought that type C attachment children are at more risk of poor attachment and therefore more likely to have a para-social relationship.

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Evaluative Research - Maltby (2006)

-          Maltby (2006): did a study on students from Yorkshire and asked them to fill out two surveys: the CAS and a questionnaire measuring mental health. He found that entertainment social students showed signs of social dysfunction and students who were at an intense personal level correlated positively with high levels of depression and anxiety. This suggests that there may be a relationship between a person’s score on the CAS and their mental health. It could be that the para-social relationship causes depression, or the other way round.

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Evaluative Research - Maltby (2006)

-          This study is supported by research by McCutcheon in 2016, who studied 330 students, their level on the CAS and the quality of their intimate relationships. It was found that troubled, anxious and poor quality relationships correlated positively with high scores on the CAS. This suggests that para-social relationships can negatively affect real world relationships.

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Building Evaluations

-          Research done on para-social relationships can be problematic. It can only use people who already have a para-social relationship, meaning that the cause of them can’t be established. This means that the research is correlational, which means that even if two variables have been found, it can’t be said which one causes the other.


-          McCutcheon studied the attachment theory on para-social relationships by studying 299 people and found that there was no link between attachment types and the likelihood of forming a para-social relationship.

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Building Evaluations

-          These types of relationships are often viewed negatively but in 1992, Jenson and Jenkins found that they can actually be positive. Large fan bases can provide support for other fans if it is true that para-social relationships can cause mental health problems.


-          The Absorption-Addiction model can be viewed as more of a description of para-social relationships, rather than an explanation. It states how they can be identified but not what they are caused by. This suggests that it can’t be an explanation at all and it also suggests that the real cause may be unknown.

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