Describe and evaluate two explanations of relationship maintenance and/or breakdown. (25 marks)
One explanation of relationship maintenance is equity theory. (Walster et al., 1978)
This theory suggests that relationships are maintained by a kind of economic balance to ensure equality between the two partners. This is achieved by matching the giving and recieving between the two partners. If there is an imbalance between them, then this is resolved by either adjusting the levels of giving and reciving, or comparing the relationships to somebody elses to evaluate whether it is worth staying in the relationship or not. The assumption of this theory is that people strive to achieve fairness in a relationship, and feel distressed if they percieve unfairness (Messick and Cook, 1983). The greater the inequity, the greater the relationship dissatisfaction.
Ragsdale and Brandau-Brown (2007) disagreed with this theory because it is an incomplete view of how married people behave with each other. Equity is not the only factor involved with maintaining a relationship, so equity theory is an insufficient explanation of marital maintenance.
A supporting study was conducted by Hatfield et al., (1979), who found that the happiest newly-weds were those that percieved an equitable relationship, those that were over or underbenefited had lower satisfaction. However, Hatfield (1979) also said that equity was more important for females than males.
This theory is nomothetic; this reduces the validity of the study as not all relationships work the same way. Some people thrive off making their partner happy, rather than from recieving off them.
This theory also suffers from culture bias- relationships in Western cultures have a different outlook on what relationships should be like in comparison to non-Western cultures…