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  • Created by: Carly
  • Created on: 28-05-12 17:28

Discuss research (theories and/or studies) relating to the dissolution of relationships.

Theories on the dissolution of relationships tend to come from the theories of the maintaining of relationships and then why they break down. One example is the social exchange theory, this refers to how a relationship is nothing but something we either gain satisfaction from (profit) or things we dislike (costs). A “profit” is thought to be the rewards of a relationship; care, support, sex, and a “cost” may consist of having to compromise in situations, or annoying habits of your partner. If a relationship is showing a lot of profit then it is likely to continue, however if it is showing a loss and the rewards and satisfaction from the relationship is low then it is likely to fail. Thibaut and Kelly stated that people in a relationship find it necessary to constantly compare their relationship, either with past relationships or the relationships of others around them. If the present relationship does not compare well then it is unlikely to last. Rusbult (1983) found that costs are only calculated after the “honeymoon phase”, and so are not considered until the relationship begins to get serious. 

Another theory on the breakdown of relationships comes from the equity maintenance theory. It believes that balance is achieved through perceived fairness and inequity results in dissolution. It is similar to the social exchange theory but deals with the fairness of the relationship and balancing it out instead of the idea of profit and cost. Hatfield et al (1972) interviewed over 500 students about equity in their relationships, the ones that were rated as inequitable more likely to have ended 3 months later. For a relationship to last, this theory believes equity must be maintained through attractive characteristics, such as looks, money and status. However this theory does not seem to apply to everyone as Buunk and Van Yperern (1991) suggested individuals low in exchange orientation are not bothered by the equity of a relationship. It can also vary throughout different cultures as many non-western cultures hold the belief that men should be dominant in a relationship. 

The breakdown of a relationship, according to the equity theory, comes partly from greed. People try to maximise their own rewards and minimize their negative experiences, which may result in unfairness to their partner, producing dissatisfaction within the relationship and finally dissolution. Alternatively, the idea of restoring the balance may produce motivation…


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