Social Exchange Theory
Thibault + Kelley (1959)
Profit and Loss:
- Social behaviour is a series of exchanges - Maximise rewards + minimise costs
- People hope they will be in 'profit' - rewards outweight costs
- Rewards; companionship, being cared for, sex. Costs; effort, finanicial investment, time wasted.
- The more profitable, the longer the relationship is maintained.
- We develop a CL to see if a person offers more than another - a standard agaisnt which relationships are judged.
- Formed by our idea of relationships + past relationships.
- If we judge our relationship to be more profitable than the CL, we remain in it, but if not we look elsewhere.
Comparison Level for Alternatives:
- If a person is dissatisfied they may look elsewhere.
- Weigh up the potential costs of ending the relationship agaisnt the rewards from another partner.
- A new relationship can take the place of the existing one if its profit level is significantly higher.
Evaluation of Social Exchange Theory
Profit + Loss:
- Martz (1995) - when investments are high (e.g. financial security, children), and alternatives are low (e.g. place to live) we may choose to remain in the relationship.
- This may explain abusive relationships.
- Simpson et al (1990) - asked participants to rate members of the opposite sex in terms of attractiveness.
- Found that those in relationships gave lower ratings.
- However, SET doesnt explain why people leave relationships with no alternative.
- Duck + Sants (1983) - Theory critisied for focusing too much on induvidual perspective + ignoring social aspects of a relationship e.g. how they communicate.
- Selfish nature of theory - do people only maintain relationships selfishly - only applies to induvidualist cultures.
Walster et al (1978)
Inequity + distress:
- Any kind of inequality has the potential to cause upset.
- Theory assumes that people strive to achieve fairness in a relationship.
- People who give a great deal in a relationship and get little in return would percieve inequity + would be dissatisfied with the relationship - The same is also true for those who give a little and get a lot in return.
- Profit is less important than fairness.
Ratio of inputs + outputs:
- Equality does not mean equity.
- Partners can give + recieve different amounts and still have an equitable relationship.
- What is considered 'fair' is subjective to the induvidual e.g. work pressures.
- We may also compare other relationships around us.
- Equity can be restored by: Changing the amount we put into the relationship; Changing the amount we demand from a relationship; Changing perceptions of relative inputs + outputs.
Evaluation of Equity Theory
Exchange + communal relationships:
- Clark + Mills (1979) - disagreed with the claim that all relationships are based on economics - distinguished between exchange relationships (colleagues) + communal (lovers, friends).
- Exchange kept track of rewards + costs, but communal are goverened by responding to the needs of the partner.
The role of relationship inequity in marriage disruption:
- Demaris (2007) - investigated whether maritial inequity is associated with maritial disruption.
- Looked at 1500 couples + found that the only subjective index of inequity associated with disruption is women feeling under-benefited.
- The greater the under-benefit, the greater the rate of divorce.
Equity: an insufficient theory:
- Ragsdale + Brandau-Brown (2007) - argue the theory is too simplistic when explaining th diversity of maritial behaviour.
- Not enough to explain maritial maintainance.
Cultural bias in equity + exchange:
- Moghaddam (1998) - suggests that 'economic' theories only apply to western culutres, and specifically only to short-term relationships with high mobility.
- When there is little time to maintain a long-term relationship, it makes sense to be concerned with give-and-take.
- Less mobile groups are more likely to value security.
RWA - relationship therapy:
- Induviduals in unsuccessful marriages frequently report a lack of positive exchanges + an excess of negative exchanges with their partner.
- Gottman + Levenson (1992) - found that in successful marriages the ratio of positive to negative exchanges was 5:1, but in unsuccessful marriages it was only 1:1.
- Relationship therapy aims to increase positive exchanges.
- Intergrated behavioural couples therapy (IBCT) helps partners to break down the pattern of negative behaviour.