The Breakdown of Relationships

The breakdown of relationships - explanations and studies

  • Created by: Marie
  • Created on: 20-05-09 14:24

Explanation 1: Reasons for relationship breakdown - DUCK, 1999

Research has established a number of reasons why relationships typically break down.

A02: Cultural differences

These factors may only apply to Western cultures. In non-Western cultures, other factors (e.g. family and community pressure) are involved.

A01 - Lack of skills

Relationships are difficult for some people because they lack the interpersonal skills (e.g. they are poor conversationalists) to make them mutuallly satisfying.

A02: Gender differences

Women tend to stress unhappiness and incompatibility as reasons for dissolution whereas men are upset by 'sexual withholding' (BREHM and KASSIN, 1996)

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A01 - Lack of Stimulation

People expect relationships to change and develop, and their not doing so is seen as sufficient justification to end the relationship.

A02: However...

Fatal attraction theory (FELMLEE, 1995) predicts that the factors that initially led to attraction (e.g. lively behaviour) will become the ones that cause dissolution.

A01 - Maintenance difficulties

In some circumstances (e.g. long-distance relationships), people cannot give their relationship the constant maintenance that it needs.

A02: However...

Research suggests that long-distance relationships are not doomed because people use many different maintenance strategies to preserve them (HOTT and STONE, 1988)

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Explanation 2: Stage model of dissolution - DUCK, 1999

  • Partners frequently fee uneasy about a relationship before dissolution begins
  • All relationshpis exist within a social matrix
  • People are motivated to justify their own actions in this process

A02: Strengths

  • This model emphasises the relationship dissolution is not sudden but a process
  • It identifies places where things start to go wrong - and can be applied to relationship counselling.

A01 - Four stages

  • Intrapsychic phase - the person begins to reflect on the deficiencies of his or her relationship, but does not yet face his or her partner about these.
  • Dyadic phase - the person confronts his/her partner. The relationship can still be repaired at this stage
  • Social Phase - dissatisfaction spills over to family and friends who may take sides
  • Grave-dressing phase - each partner strives to construct his/her own version of the failed relationship
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A02: Limitations of stage model of dissolution

DUCK's stage model does not explain why relationships break down, nor does it tend to be supported by research evidence.

A01 - An Alternative model : LEE (1984)

  • LEE's Model places more emphasis on the early stages of breakdown when there is still hope that the relationship might be saved.
  • Contrary to DUCK's predictions, LEE found that many people go directly from dissatisfaction to termination without going through any intermediate stages.
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