A2 Relationships. Question 3

HideShow resource information

Formation AO1

Matching hypothesis - Walster et al (1966) randomly paired over 700 1st year Minnesota students into “blind-date” couples for a university dance. The matching hypothesis predicts that people aspire to be in a romantic relationship with a partner who has a high level of social desirability. Each of the 752 students in Walster’s study completed questionnaires measuring their various qualities. Physical attractiveness assessed on entry to dance. Prediction of researchers was p’s would like  randomly allocated partners more if well-matched.

The reinforcement-affect model  - (Byrne, 1971) argues that relationship formation can be explained by conditioning. If true, relationships should follow pattern of maximum pleasure & minimum pain. Familiarity = positive affect. Lott (1974)

Other factors – similarity, familiarity and self-disclosure.

1 of 14

Formation AO2

Matching hypothesis- Only the 1st stage of relationships was studied, other factors may become important at a later stage of a relationship.

Physical attractiveness is a very obvious quality, it can be seen immediately. Other qualities, such as intelligence, sense of humour and social skills may take longer to uncover.

Reinforcement-affect theory
Reductionism and Determinism- for reinforcement-affect theory, relationships are reduced to the repetition of pleasurable behaviour and the avoidance of painful behaviour. Downplays cognition in relationship formation.

Limited application - reinforcement-affect theory can only be applied to relationships that we choose to take part in.

Assumption of selfishness or hedonism - The theory paints a picture of people who are very self-centred

2 of 14

Maintinance AO1

SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY. - Homans (1961) claims that all human relationships are seen as business transactions – the ‘merchants’ are motivated by ‘self interest’ in order to strive to get the best ‘deal’. Aim to get maximum rewards at minimum costs.

Thibaut and Kelley (59) – long term relationships go through 4 stages. Sampling – costs and rewards of associating with others are explored. Bargaining – a process of negotiation in which rewards and costs are agreed. Commitment – Exchange of rewards and acceptance of costs stabilise. Greater focus on the relationship. Institutionalisation – Norms and expectations are established.

EQUITY THEORY - if we are unhappy in a relationship then we perceive it as being unfair. An exchange is judged as fair if the ratio of perceived inputs to rewards is the same for both in the relationship. Under benefited = hard done by and unstable. Over benefited = uncomfortable and guilty. Hatfield et al (79) equitable = experienced the highest levels of satisfaction.

3 of 14

Maintinance AO2

The theories makes us understand how we view a relationship in a very economic manner (cost, profit etc) – AO2 synoptic – reductionist?

It reinforces the fact we are motivated by ‘self-interest’ but states we calculate what the costs/rewards would potentially be– AO2 – Hedonismnot all concerned with what we can get

Both theories ‘overgeneralise’do not see behaviour due to individual differences, instead as universal. We all have a self-interest, but can we universally define it? Can we state self-interest is the same for everyone or every relationship we enter? Do individual differences come into play? Self-interest = very subjective concept and flexible to each and every relationship. (AO3 – difficult to operationalise as a psychological concept) Culture. The theories do not pay attention to the role of culture in how we perceive ‘fairness’ or ‘self-interest’ in a variety of relationships. (AO2 synoptic – issue – relationships in many other cultures may not be based on equity or exchange.

4 of 14

Breakdown AO1

Duck (1982) Risk factors Predisposing personal factors: distasteful personal habits, change in interests, poor role models (e.g. parents divorced), poor social skills. Precipating factors: deception, boredom, relocation, conflict.

Duck (1984) Phase model of breakdown – Intrapsychic, Dyadic, Social and grave-dressing

Duck (2001) Reasons for breakdown - Pre-existing doom, Mechanical failure, Sudden death

Lee (1985) based on 112 pre-marital break-ups. 5 stage model of breakdown (DENRAT – Dissatisfaction, Exposure, Negotiation, Resolution Attempts and Termination.).

Felmlee (1995) – fatal attraction theory – what attracts us initially turns into something strange and difficult

5 of 14

Breakdown AO2

Lee mainly looks at events leading up to dissolution, and Duck looks at processes afterwards. Neither model explains why relationships break down. Research in non-Western cultures found differences between those and Western cultures. Moghaddam et al. (1993) found that North American relationships are mainly individualistic (concerned with the needs of the self), voluntary and temporary (the majority of relationships are able to be terminated). Most non-Western relationships are collective (concerned with the needs of other, e.g. kin), obligatory and permanent.

Impact of relationships dissolution Akert (1992) found that the role people played in the decision to end the relationship was the most powerful indicator of how the breakup would affect people – those who didn’t initiate the relationship dissolution (the dumped!) were the most miserable. Those who did initiate it (the dumpers!) didn’t feel so bad, although they did feel guilty.

 Reductionistreduces breakdown of relationships to a stage model. Deterministicignores people who choose to stay e.g. abusive relationships.


6 of 14

Sexual Selection AO1

In evolutionary terms natural selection is the process by which certain characteristics and behaviours get passed on in the gene pool because they give the individual a better chance of surviving and reproducing.

Sexual selection is the process within natural selection where by any characteristic or behaviour that increases the reproductive success of an individual are selected  and these characteristics may get exaggerated over evolutionary timeDarwin suggests this has lead to females being choosy about who they “mate” and settle down with. (Intersexual selection) Females will be looking for good genetic qualities in a male and qualities that indicate that he could provide for her and their offspring (Buss)

This in turn has created competition between males. (Intrasexual competition) They have to convince females they would be the best to mate with.  Males will also be concerned with looking for females with qualities that suggest fertility (youth and good health – synonymous with physical attractiveness.  (Buss).

7 of 14

Sexual Selection AO2

Cross cultural studies provide good evidence for evolutionary theory because if we see the same behaviour across culture we can deduce that this behaviour may be a result of genes (evolution) rather than socialisation (Buss) Although the study lends support to evolutionary theory we must be careful in assuming that human mate choice is just a product of our evolutionary past.

Our choices will also be affected by our upbringing , religion and our culture and these may change from generation to generation. Some of the findings of studies can also be explained in terms of culture and society. For example, in the past women have had to rely on men to provide for them given the inequality in earning power etc. In today’s modern times we may see changes in what women are looking for in a mate.

In this way evolutionary theory can be accused of being reductionist in trying to explain reproductive behaviour in terms of  gene survival and ignoring social, cultural and moral influences on our reproductive behaviour. Evolutionary theory is also highly deterministic, which is dangerous as we forget that humans have the ability to think about their actions. Biologist Richard Dawkins believes we can override biology with freewill.

8 of 14

Parental Investment

Trivers (72)defined parental investment (PI) as, “any investment by the parent in an individual offspring that increases the offspring’s chance of surviving at the cost of the parent’s ability to invest in other offspring.” PI includes the provision of resources (such as food, energy and time used in obtaining food and maintaining the home and territory), time spent teaching offspring, and risks taken to protect young. Trivers argued that there’s an optimum number of offspring. A low-investing male may favour a ‘quantity rather than quality’ approach. Females would prefer quality rather than quantity. Females are more choosy.

9 of 14

Parental Investment AO2

PI - Inconclusive empirical support: according to Daly and Wilson (1988) children under the age of 2 are at least 60 times more likely to be killed by a step-parent – almost always a stepfather – than by a natural parent. This is exactly what evolutionary theory would predict, since step-parents and stepchildren are genetically unrelated. More tricky still for evolutionary theory to explain is the case of the woman who kills her new-born baby (neonaticide). According to Pinker (1997), when such an act takes place in conditions of poverty, it could be regarded as an adaptationist response

POC - Substantial empirical support: Cross-cultural research indicates that parental investment is lower in families with at least 1 step-parent; Stepfathers are more likely to kill their stepchildren, the same is true for child abuse, Even when financial resources and marital status are held constant, younger mothers are more likely to kill their infants than are older mothers

10 of 14

Childhood Experiences AO1

Parent-child interaction - Shaver et al (1988) claimed that what we experience as romantic love in adulthood is an integration of 3 behavioural systems acquired in infancyattachment, care giving and sexuality systems. The 1st system, attachment is related to the concept of the internal working model. According to Bowlby (1969) later relationships are likely to be a continuation of early attachment styles (secure and insecure) because the behaviour of the infant’s primary attachment figure promotes an internal working model of relationships which leads the infant to expect the same in later relationships

Interaction with peers - Nangle (2003) claims that children’s friendships are training grounds for important adult relationships. Close friendships are characterised by affection, a sense of alliance and intimacy, and the sharing of secrets and personal information. The experience of having a friend to confide in promotes feelings of trust, acceptance and a sense of being understood.

11 of 14

Childhood Experiences AO2

Parent-child interaction: However, one key question concerns the stability of attachment types. It could be that an individual’s attachment type is determined by the current relationship, which is why happily married couples are secure. Attachment theory does suggest that significant relationship experiences may alter attachment organisation. Kirkpatrick and Hazan (1994) found that relationship break-ups were associated with a shift from secure to insecure attachment

Interaction with peers: Gender differences in childhood relationships have been found in a number of studies. Other research (Erwin, 1993) has found that boys relationships tend to be more competitive, a fact attributed to the greater emphasis on competitive play activities. In contrast, girls are more likely to engage in co-operative and sharing activities. However, Erwin claims that sex differences in the experience of childhood relationships have been over-emphasised, that many similarities tend to be overlooked.

12 of 14

Cultural Differences AO1

Hofstede (1984) outlined the main differences between individualist and collectivist cultures. Individualist cultures  -  emphasise self-interest and the interest of one’s immediate family, personal autonomy (independence), initiative and achievement. Collectivist cultures – emphasise loyalty to the group, interdependence and the belief that group decisions are more important than individual ones. Marrying for love is seen as a vital component of long-term relationships in the West, but for Chinese couples, romance and love are less important and are only considered in the light of responsibility towards parents and the family. Moore & Leung (01) tested this predicted cultural difference in an Australian study. They compared 212 Anglo-Australian students (born in Oz, NZ or UK) and 106 Chinese-Australian students (born in Hong Kong or China) to see if the ‘romantic conservatism’ of Chinese students would manifest itself in different attitudes toward romance. Chinese students reported significantly more loneliness than Anglo-Australian students. A distinguishing feature of many Western cultures is that we live in predominantly urban settings with relatively easy geographical and social mobility. Using a comparison of Chinese and North American societies, Hsu (1953) described the Chinese regard for heritage and ancestry, and the suspicion with which change is generally viewed.

13 of 14

Cultural Differences AO2

Although we might expect relationships based on love to produce more compatible partners, this may not necessarily be the case. Parents may be in a better position to judge compatibility in the long-term, whereas young people may be ‘blinded by love’. In societies with reduced mobility, ‘non-voluntary’ or arranged marriages make good sense and seem to work well.  Divorce rates are low for such marriages, and, even more surprising, in perhaps about half of them the spouses report that they have fallen in love with each other (Epstein, 2002).    A study of women in Chengdu, China, found that women who had married for love felt better about their marriages (regardless of duration) than women who experienced arranged marriages (Xiaohe and Whyte, 1990). The non-Western shift to more discontinuous and non-permanent relationships is relatively recent. 50 years ago divorce was rare in the West and extended family groups more common. This marks a shift within Western society which may again be related to greater urbanisation and mobility, indicating that the significant cleavage may not be Western/non-Western or individualist/collectivist but urban/non-urban.

14 of 14


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Relationships resources »