Psychological Explanations of Love

Love and breakdown - Psychological explanations of love

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  • Created by: Marie
  • Created on: 20-05-09 11:25

Explanation 1: The triangular theory of love - STERNBERG, 1986 - Love constists of three components, the combination of which determines the type of love

A01 - Components of love:

  • Intimacy - a feeling of closeness between partners
  • Passion - the drive that leads to romantic and physical attraction
  • Commitment - making the decision to stay with a partner

A02: Cultural differences: Passions is more important in western cultures where as commitment is most important in relationships

A01 - Typology of love: Consummate (complete) love involves all three components. If one or more is absent, a different type of love exists. Successful relationships tend to be those where a person's current relationship matches their 'ideal' relationship

A02: Research Support: Although STERNBERG based this typology on students and adults in Yale university conmmunity, other research (FEHR, 1988) has supported his findings

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A01: Love as a story

STERNBERG also believed that people learn about love from books, parents, and from television. This gives them romantic expectations of what love should be like.


However... although happy couples appear to endorse similar kinds of story, there are gender differences in what men and women believe to be important in love.

An alternative explanation:

Alternative theories have tended to be simpler. Three factor theory sees love as a lable we place of physiological arousal in situations that cultural learning tells us may be love - (HATFIELD and WALSTER, 1981)

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Explanation 2: Love as an attachment process - (HAZAN and SHAVER, 1987) - Love is seen as an extension of early attachment styles

A01- Early attachment styles (AINSWORTH, 1967)

From oberservations of babies and their mothers, AINSWORTH produced three distinct attachment styles - Secure, insecure-resistant and insecure-avoidant.

A01- Love as attachment - The Continuity Hypothesis

Later relationships are likely to be characterised by a continuation of early attachment styles as the mother's behaviour creates an internal working model of relationships for the child.

A02: Research support for continuity hypothesis

HAZAN and SHAVER (1987) found that adults who had been securely attached were more successful in adult relationships than those who had been insecurely attached. These findings have been supported in other studies (e.g. Feeney and Noller, 1990)

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A02: Limitations of Continuity Hypothesis

  • Most studies (such as HAZAN and SHAVER) rely on retrospective classification - which may be flawed due to faulty recollections. However, longitudinal studies (E.g. McCarthy, 1999) support the main claims of the hypothesis.
  • Such research is only correlational, so we cannot claim a cause-effect relationship

A01: Different aspects of love (SHAVER et al., 1988)

What we experience as 'love' is an integration of three learned behavioural systems - attachment, caregiving and sexuality.

These three aspects influence the development of different subtypes of love.

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