Psychology - Relationships

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

Rollie and Duck’s model of breakdown attempts to explain the process in six steps. It begins with dissatisfaction with how a relationship is conducted, which leads to an intrapsychic process that is characterised by glooming on the partner’s faults and the costs of the relationship. In the dyadic process, people confront their partners and discuss their feelings about the relationship. The relationships may be saved at this point due to a reassessment of goals, possibilities or commitment, or it may break down further. If further breakdown occurs, social processes will take place, whereby friends and family will offer advice and support.  After having left the relationship, grave-dressing processes will commence. Partners strive to construct a representation of the relationship that does not paint their own contribution to the relationship unfavourably. This process often involves emotional distress. In the final resurrection process, each partner prepares for new relationships by learning from the mistakes of the prior relationship.

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

This model has been largely supported by research evidence. Tashiro & Frazier surveyed students whose relationships had recently broken down. They reported to have experienced emotional distress as well as personal growth, stating that these breakdowns had given them a clearer idea about future relationships. This provides evidence for both the grave-dressing and resurrection processes.

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

A study by Akert provided a criticism for this model. Akert found that the instigators of break-ups suffer fewer negative consequences than non-instigators. Rollie & Duck use the same model for both instigators and non-instigators. This suggests that this model ignores individual differences such as this one.

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

This model is also perceived to be culturally biased, rooted in Western culture. Many collectivist, non-Western cultures have arranged marriages, which are generally regarded as permanent. Marital crises of these relationships are also seen as the concern of the entire family, not just the couple. Therefore, this model may not apply to non-Western relationships.

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

In another theory, Duck proposed three reasons as to why relationships break down. One of these is a lack of skills. A partner may lack the interpersonal skills to make the relationship mutually satisfying. They may be a poor conversationalist, poor at indicating their interest in their partner, or their interactions with other people may be generally unrewarding. Another cause of relationship breakdown is a lack of stimulation. A lack of stimulation may be boredom or a belief that the relationship is not going anywhere, and this may result in breakdown. In some circumstances, relationships may become strained due to maintenance difficulties: the partners do not see each other often enough.

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

One major reason for relationship breakdown is that one or both partners have an affair. Boekhout et al. asked undergraduates to rate various reasons for a partner to be unfaithful in a relationship. Partners judged that boredom & lack of attention to be among the most likely reasons, showing how affairs may be the result of a perceived lack of skills and/or stimulation and thus supporting Duck's theory.

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

Long-distance relationships can be the cause of maintenance difficulties. However, Holt & Stone found that there was little decrease in relationship satisfaction as long as the lovers are able to reunite regularly. This suggests that long-distance relationships may not lead to breakdown as Duck’s explanation would suggest. However, this may be partly due to the increased accessibility to technology which allows long-distance partners to communicate fully.

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Two or more theories of the breakdown of relations

A criticism of this model is that it ignores gender differences. For example, women are more likely to stress unhappiness & incompatibility as reasons for break-up, while men are more likely to cite sexual withholding. Women also have more desire to remain friends after the dissolution, while men prefer to cut ties completely.

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