Social Exchange and Equity Theory (Maintenance of Relationships)

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  • Created by: Charlie
  • Created on: 27-12-12 13:11

Social Exchange Theory (Thibaut and Kelly) (A01)

Social exchange theory is based on the concept that in releationships we look to maximise rewarding experiences and minimize any costs, this economic theory was purposed by Thibuat and Kelly. Rewards could include companionship, love and sex, and cost could be spending time doing unpleasant activity like watch a film you strongly dislike.

Thibuat and Kelly purposed a four stage model, the first stage being...

Sampling - the couple explores the rewards and costs of several relationships

Bargaining - the couple costs out the relationship and identifies sources of profit and loss

Commitment - the couple then settle into a releationship; the exchange of rewards then becomes highly predictable

Institutionlization - rewards and costs are firmly established, the couple settle down this usually ends up in marriage.

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Comparsion Levels (A01)

Thibaut and Kelley recognised  the influence of the indivduals past relationships and the possiable relationships with others would have on any current relationships, so they introduced to reference levels, comparsion level and comparsion level for alteratives.

Comparsion Level - this is concerned with both the past and present; that is, the comparsion between the rewards and costs of the current relationship and what the standards where in past relationships. if the current relationship compares favourably then the indivdual is motivated to maintain the relationship, if not then you are less so and the relationship is more likely to be ended

Comparsion level for alternative - this is concerned with the benefits of other possible other realtionships. we compare the outcomes of our current relationship with a possible alterative relationships. if we feel we could do better in another relationship we will motivated to finish the current one.

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Clark and Mills (1979) and Simpson et al (A02)

They identified two types of couples the first being, 'the communal couple' and the other being the exchange couple.

Communal couple - this couple was more concerned with the happiness of the other and is motivated by giving. People in these relationships are concern with equity in there relationship but are much more relaxed over comprises then 'exchange couples'

Exchanage couple - this couple is the kind of 'score-keeping' type of couple which soical exchange theory predicts.

They study suggests that social exchange can't be applied to all couples since it requires that they have a certain preception of what a releationship should be like which is not universal.

Simpson et al - asked partcipants look  at and rate pictures of members of the opposite sex in terms of attractiveness and found that the partcipants who gave lower ratings were already in relationships.

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Cultural Bias Moghaddam 1998 IDA

He argues that such economic theories only apply to western relationships. The more short term a relationship is the more it becomes relevant to the predictions that social exchange theory makes.

However in more long term relationships, are more likley to vaule things like security with money and children rather then profit, and iin addtion it is much more differcult to leave a relationship in collectivist cultures as the fallout would effect the community as well, so they are more motivated to maintain the relationship and will have more support from family and friends to maintain it.

This suggests that this theory can't univerivaly appiled as an explaination of relationship maintenace.

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Equity Theory (Walster et al 1978)

Walster's Theory offers an explaination as to how social exchange works in real life relationships, one of its main assumptions is that people strive to achieve fairness in their relationships and start to feel stress if they precieve unfairness.

However unlike social exchange theory its main focus is equity rather then maximizing rewards and minimizing their costs.

Acoording to Equity Theory, people who give a great deal in a relationship but get little in return would precive inequity, as would those who recieve a great amount but give very little in return. Both of these relationships would be considered to be inequitable and would lead to the disatsfaction of both partners.

Walster suggested four principles of equity theory...

1, People will try to maxmize rewards and minmize costs in any relationship

2. Distribution of rewards is negotiated to ensure fairness,this may be achived through trade offs or favours that can be paid back at a later date.

3. Unfair relationships produce disatisfaction,the loser in the relationship feels the disatsfaction more strongly, and the  greater the degree of unfairness the greater the disatsfaction.

4.As long as the loser feels there is a changes of restoring equity and there is a motivation to save the relationship then he/she will endeavour to re-establish equity. Futhermore, the greater the degree of inequity that the loser preives, the greater the effort to restore fairness

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Prins (1993) and other A02

Prins Found that among dutch couples, inequity in a relationship had different consequences for males and females.Males who preceived inequity did not express their desire to have an affair while females did.

Stafford and Canary 2006 - they asked over 200 couples to complte a questionare  measuring relationship satisfaction and equity, the couples that had the highest satisfaction rates had a preception that their relationship was equitable. They were then followed by partners they were over benefited and then by under benfited in term of satisfaction and equity.

Clark and Mills - They argue that the concern for equity may only characterise relationships between business colleagues and associates rather then friends or couples. They claim that close relationships are goverened by the desire to respond to the needs another rather then a concern about equity.

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Gender differences (Steil & Weltman) - IDA

They studied married working couples and found that in general women they rated their husbands carrers as more important then thier own . They concluded that since women seek less for themselves in a relationship, it makes equity not as relevant explaination of how relationship maintance happens in real life.

This calls in to question the universality Equity being a determinant of relationship satisfaction and maintenance.

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Thanks for defining what the different approaches meant, very helpful! It's just a shame that getrevising keep censoring you everytime you say s-e-x :)

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