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Formation of Romantic Relationships
Transcript of Formation of Romantic Relationships
Reward/Need Satisfaction Theory
One reason why we spend time with others is because we find them
rewarding. This may be through classical and operant conditioning. We can associate people with positive feelings (classical conditioning) and tend to like people who provide direct reinforcement and so are more likely to form a relationship with them.
Operant conditioning tells us that we are motivated to repeat
behaviours that provide rewards and avoid behaviours that lead to punishments. This is shown in the formation of romantic relationships as the things we find rewarding tend to reflect out unmet needs eg, financial support. Mutual attraction occurs when both partners meet eachothers needs.
This theory suggests that we are attracted to people that we share
positive experiences with (classical conditioning). It also says that
we are more inclined to like people if we meet them when we're feeling
happy. The neutral stimulus (the person) becomes positively valued
because of their association with a pleasant event.
Support For This Theory
Byrne and Clore believe that the balance of positive and negative feelings is crucial in the formation of relationships. If positive feelings outweigh negative feelings when meeting a new person, a relationship is more likely to form.
Support For This Theory
Carte at al asked 337 participants to assess their current relationships in terms of reward level and satisfaction. They found that reward level was rated above all other factors in terms of determining relationship satisfaction.
Criticisms of This Theory
This theory has been criticised as it only considers the recieving of rewards, however Hays found that we also get satisfaction from giving rewards
Formation, maintenance and breakdown of relationships
Griffit and Guay conducted a lab study in which an experimenter was asked to evaluate participants on a creative task. The participants were also asked to rate how much they liked the experimenter. The ratings were highest when the experimenter had positively evaluated the participants performance on the task. The participants were also asked to rate an onlooker, and this onlooker was rated more highly in the condition where the task was evaluated positively.
The second part of the task provides
evidence that people are preferred
if they are associated with a
pleasant experience. However this
may make it difficult to explain
romantic relationsips as it focuses
on just liking someone.
It is said however that liking people
is a crucial stage in the formation of a romantic
This theory does not take into account cultural and gender differences that exist in the formation of relationships. Lott suggested that in many cultures women are more focused on the needs of others rather than recieving any reinforcement.
Reward/Need satisfaction Theory
This theory suggests that relationships develop through three filters and different factors are important at different times.
1. Demographic Variables
We mix with people who are similar to us in several ways such as living, working or studying in the same place. This reduces the selection of people that we mix with.
2. Attitudes and Values
If people share ideas and beliefs then communication is much easier and the relationship may progress. At this stage, people with different attitudes, values and interests are filtered out.
Once the realationship has formed the third filter is
triggered and this is to do with how well the two
people fit together to meet eachothers needs.
Kerckoff and Davis
A longitudinal study was used to test the filter theory. Participants were student couples who had been together for more than 18 months. Over seven months the students were asked to complete several questionnaires in which they had to report attitude similarities and personality traits with and of their partner. It was found that in the first 18 months of a realtionship, attitude similarity was the most important factor, after this psychological compatabilty and the ability to meet each others needs became more important.
The models emphasis on demographic factors and the similarity of attitudes has also been found to be important in the survival of relationships. Sprecher found that couples who matched in physical attractiveness, social backgrounds and interests were much more likely to develop a long term relationship.
Gruber-Baldin also completed a longitudinal study of couples over 21 years, it was found that couples with similar attitudes were more likely to stay together.
Most studies that were used to support this theory were longitudinal, this gives way for attrition and therefore reduces the reliability of the results.
This model splits the relationship into stages and therefore fails to capture the fluid nature of most relationships.
Maintenence of Romantic Relationships
Social Exchange Theory
The maintenance of a relationship relies on a series of exchanges. It is believed that when in a relationship people try to maximise the rewards that they recieve and reduce the costs that are incurred by themseves.
This further suggests that the maintenance of a relationship is determined by how profitable the relationship is.
The idea of a comparison level is used to asses the profitability of a relationship. This is a standard that we compare our relationship to, it may be a comparison to a previous relationship , and if the current relationship is seen to be more profitable then the relationship is maintaned.
This theory also suggests that a comparison level for alternatives is used to weigh up the potential increase in rewards that could be provided by a different partner, minus the costs of ending their current relationship.
This theory can be used to explain why women retain in abusive relationships. It is said that when the investment is high (for example children) and the alternatives have low profitability (no house or financial support), the abusive relationship is seen to be more profitable and therefore it is maintained.
This theory does not explain why some people leave relationships despite there being no alternative, nor does it explain how much of a loss is necessary for the relationship to become unsatisfactory
The idea of a comparison level can be found by investigating how people in a relationship deal with potential alternatives. Simpson et al asked participants to rate members of the opposite sex in terms of attractiveness; those participants already involved in relationships gave lower ratings. This may be because it reduces the threat of the person to their relationship.
This theory has a selfish view of relationships. This theory may only be applicable to individualistic cultures.
Moghaddam suggests that economic theories only apply to Western cultures and even then they only apply to short term relationships among people with high mobility (eg, students). When there is little time to develop long term commitment it makes sense to be concerned with give and take, but in long term relationships in less mobile groups, security is more likely to be valued over personal profit.
This theory also foucses on the individuals perspective and is criticised for doing so as it ignores other social aspects of a relationship.
It has become apparent through research that profit in a relationship is less important than fairness in a relationship. Modifications were made to this theory, resulting in the EQUITY THEORY.
Walster et al applied the social exchange theory to real life romantic relationships. This theory assumes that people strive to achieve fairness in their relationship, unlike the social exchange theory where individuals are trying to maximise their rewards and minimse their costs, this theory suggests that relationships will be maintained is there is a sense of balance and stability.
1. Sampling- people try to maximise their rewards and minimise negative experiences
within any relationship.
2. Bargaining- the distribution of rewards is negotiated to ensure fairness. This may be
achieved through trade-offs or compensations.
3. Commitment- this happens when the couple settles into a relationship, the exchange
of rewards that occurs becomes predictable
4. Institutionalisation- At this point the interactions are established and the couple settle down into a routine. If these exchanges remain equitable then the relationships will be maintained.
Van Yperen and Buunk conducted a longitudinal study of volunteers. 86% of the couples were married and the rest were just living together. This study found that 65% of men and women felt that their relationship was equitable, 25% of men felt over benefitted and about the same number of women felt under benefitted. They were then questionned again a year leter and those who felt that their relationship was equitable at stage 1 were most satisfied, those who felt over benefitted were next, and then those who felt under benefitted were least satisfied, therefore supporting the equity theory.
Ragsdale and Brandau-Brown reject the claim that equity is a key determinant of relationship satisfaction. They claim that this does not reflect the way that partners in long term relationships behave towards eachother.
This theory is considered to be culturally biased as Lujansky and Mikula found that there were no equity effects on romantic relationships in Austria.
This is a Western ideology that has been applied to all cultures.
Rusbult proposed a concept of investment and highlighted its importance in maintaining romantic relationships. This model does not discount satisfaction or the quality of alternatives but assumes that these are also key features in a successful romantic relationship. The focus of this model is however the level of investment that each person has put into the relationship. Investment constitutes anything that a person has put into the relationship that they may lose if they leave.
Rusbult tested her model by asking college students in heterosexual relationships to complete questionnaires over a seven month period. They kept notes on how satisfactory their relationship was, how they compared with alternatives and how much they has invested in the relationship. The students also noted how committed they felt to the relationship. The findings of this study were that satisfaction, comparison and investment all contributed to relationship maintenance. In committed relationships, high satisfaction and investment appear to be important to the survival of the relationship.
This theory has been supported by a number of studies for example Rusbult and Marts, they asked women in refugees why they had remained with abusive partners instead of leaving the minute the abuse began. As predicted by the investment model, women had felt the greatest level of commitment to their relationships when their ecomonic alternatives were poor and their investment in the relationship was great.
Relationship Breakdown- Rollie and Duck
'I cant stand it anymore'
One person becomes increasingly dissatsfied with the relationship. If they are dissatisfied enough they will go onto the next process.
'Id be justified in withdrawing'
This process is characterised by social withdrawal and resentment. The dissatisfied partner will focus on the other persons faults and there will be a sense of under benefit. The result of this process is that they are likely to re-evaluate their relationship and consider the alternatives.
'I mean it'
This is when the partners start to talk about their problems to each other. This may result in reconciliation if the other person feels their concerns are valid. The ability to talk about things in a constructive way rather than a destricutive way is critical to the survival of the relationship.
'It's now inevitable'
This is when the breakup is made public, adivce is sought from people outside the relationship and alliances are made. Social implications such as care for children is usually negotiated at this stage.
'Time to get a new life'
This is when the relationship has died, those involved must create an account of how it came into being, what it was like and how it died. Ex partners must organise their post-relationship lives and start to publicise their own version of why the relationship ended. Different stories will be offered to different audiences.
'What I learned and how things will be different'
This process involves preparing yourself for another relationship. They must create a sense of their own social value, define what they want out of a relationship in the furture and what they must avoid. The newly single partners must believe that 'this time it will be different'.
This model has been supported by observations done of real life relationship breakdowns (Tashiro and Frazier). They surveyed undrgraduates who had recently broken up with a romantic partner. The participants reported that they had not only experienced emotional distress but also personal growth as a result of the breakup. It was reported that the breakup gave them insights into themselves and a clearer idea of future partners.
This model has provided methods of intervention that could save relationships and these methods can be used by counsellors. This model stresses the importance of communication in any relationship.
This theory has face validity as it is an account of relationship breakdown that we can relate to our own experiences.
The view of dissolution as a process rather than an event is widely accepted.
This model was developed based on the experiences of white, middle class, heterosexual participants who may not represent the experiences of other groups of people.
To generalise the findings to all relationships may be considered to be ethnocentric as non-western relationships are very different to western, individualistic, voluntary relationships that these theories are based on.
The theory applies mainly to romantic relationships, because they are exclusive in a way that friendships generally are not. All stages do not occur in the process of relationship breakdown, nor are they always in the order shown.
This model does not take into account why the dissatisfaction occurred in the first place; its starting point is where dissatisfaction is already set in. Therefore failing to prove a complete picture of relationship breakdown.
Breakdown Of Romantic Relationships
Relationship Breakdown- Lee
Partners discover problems in the relationship.
The problems are identified and brought out into the open.
Some discussion about the issues raised during the exposure period.
Partners try to find ways of solving the problems.
If the resolution attempts are unsuccessful, then the relationship breaks down.
This study is based on a survey of 112 breakups of premarital romantic relationships. It was found that relationships that had been the strongest took longer to work through the five stages, he also found that the negotiation and exposure stages were most distressing and emotionally exhausting.
A lot of information was gathered in this study and the sample was large.
Lees model is more positive than Ducks, seeing more oppourtunities for problematic relationships to be solved. This gives practical applications in counselling.
This theory, like Ducks, cannot explain abusive relationships, where the abused partner may not indicate the breakdown and even be reluctant to reveal their dissatisfaction. In some cases the abused partner may even simply walk away from the relationship, and sometimes just put up with it.
This theory desciribes the process of the breakup but does not provide an explaination of why the process occurs.
Both theories are culturally specific as there are cultural differences in relationships that Ducks model does not explain. Many non-western cultures can have arranged marriages which can be more permanent and involve whole families in crises.
Both theories can be regarded as reductionist, focusing only on romantic heterosexual relationships. This suggests that the theories are not applicable to friendships and homosexual relationships.
Not all relationships follow the equity theory in fact, Clark and Mills identified two different styles of couples: the communal couple and the exchange couple. They found that the communal couple is motivated to give by concern and positive regard for the other, they are more relaxed over equity and tend to think that the rewards and costs will eventually balance out. It was only exchange couples that display the kind of score keeping proposed by the equity theory.