The Maintenance Of Romantic Relationships: Psya3 Relationships
The Maintenance Of Romantic Relationships
Social Exchange Theory – AO1 Theory (Thibaut And Kelly 1959)
One theory for the maintenance of romantic relationships is Social exchange theory. This views relationship behaviour as a series of exchanges based on rewards, costs and profit. Each person attempts to maximise their rewards while minimising their costs. The exchange element occurs when individuals receive rewards and thus feel obliged to reciprocate. Rewards are seen as pleasurable and beneficial, which may include company, security, intimacy or sex. Costs can be anything that occurs that is viewed as a loss to the individual due to being in the relationship e.g. effort, financial investment or time. This can also be problems, arguments, abuse, and loss of other relationship opportunities faced by the individual due to maintaining the current relationship. The costs subtracted from rewards equals in a perceived loss or profit for the individual. This theory proposes relationships are maintained with further commitment as long as the individual perceives a profit occurring. This theory proposes individuals use a comparison level to determine the value of exchanges. This comparison level is based on previous experiences of relationships, the person’s expectations of the relationship and a comparison of possible alternative relationships that may be available. This comparison may also look at the benefits of not being in a relationship compared to the current one and the gains of that (e.g. less arguments, more time with friends, freedom etc) If a person judges the current relationship offers poor value based on this comparison level they may be motivated to end it or maintain it provided the expected profits exceed this comparison level.
Equity Theory (Walster 1978) – AO1 Theory For Psya3: The Maintenance Of Romantic Relationships
Another theory for the maintenance of romantic relationships is Equity theory. This is similar in that it sees behaviour within relationships as a series of exchanges with people trying to maximise their rewards and minimise costs however the goal is not for profit but to achieve perceived fairness (equity). This theory proposes under-benefiting or over-benefiting both cause inequity within the relationship leading to dissatisfaction or possible dissolution. The greater the perceived inequity the greater the dissatisfaction and distress. Recognising inequity also provides a chance for the relationship to be saved by making adjustments to re-establish equity. This is provided the “loser” feels there is a chance of restoring fairness and is motivated to attempt to save the relationship. This can be done by changing they amount put into the relationship (Input), changing the amount taken from the relationship (Output) or changing their perception of Inputs and Outputs. (Practical applications in counselling IDA). Equity does not necessarily mean equality and both people can put in different amounts within the relationship and it can still be deemed equitable. If someone puts in little they may get little back while those who put in more may get more in return. Equity theory is therefore dependent on input/output ratios. People may still compare the relationship to their comparison level for other relationships to determine whether it is worth them continuing to invest or start a new relationship.
The Investment Model (Rusbult 1983) AO1 Theory (Psya3: The Maintenance Of Romantic Relationships)
A third theory explaining the maintenance of romantic relationships is the Investment Model by Rusbult (Investment Theory). Research has focused on whether individuals decide to remain in a relationship or whether they choose to leave with the term “commitment” used to describe a relationship continuing. The level of satisfaction a member receives by being in the relationship strengthens this commitment while possible alternatives weaken it. A third measure introduced by Rusbult was “investment” which further increases this commitment. Similar to social exchange theory, satisfaction is derived when the costs of the relationship are subtracted from the rewards with the remaining outcomes compared to a personal comparison level by the individual of what they feel is acceptable. If the outcomes surpass this comparison level then the individual will be satisfied while not meeting it will likely result in unhappiness.
The quality of alternatives available may also lead an individual to end one relationship and start another while a lack of alternatives may lead the individual to continue to maintain the current relationship. The benefits of not being in the relationship may also be weighed up and if having no relationship is perceived as more attractive than being in an unhappy relationship this may also motivate them to end their current relationship.
Rusbult proposed that the level of investment by individuals also contributed to the stability and maintenance of the relationship. Investment can be seen as anything an individual puts into the relationship and this can vary from money to time, effort, shared friends to even emotional energy and possessions. Therefore the higher the investment an individual has put into the relationship the more chances of it being maintained. Rusbult tested this theory by asking college students (IDA – lacks generalisation to wider population) in heterosexual relationships (IDA – bias towards heterosexual relationships only – cannot explain gay/lesbien relationships and thus lacks wider generalisation!) to complete questionnaires over a 7 month period. They kept a record of how happy they were within their relationships, the possible alternatives as well as their level of investment and commitment. Results found that satisfaction, comparison against alternatives and investment all contributed to commitment and breakup. High levels of commitment and investment contributed heavily to committed relationships while the possibility of alternative relationships appeared to influence individuals to end relationships.
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