Outline and evaluate the maintenance of romantic relationships
1 Social exchange theory, developed by Thibaut and Kelley, 1959
1.1 Profit and loss: the theory is based on the assumption that social
behaviour is a series of exchanges to maximise rewards and minimise
costs. People exchange resources in order to recieve rewards (profit).
Rewards = care, companionship and sex; costs = effort, financial
investment, wasted time. Rewards minus costs equals outcome.
1.1.1 This has been used to explain why women stay in abusive
relationships. If investments, such as children and finances, are
high, it may be considered a profit situation. (Rusbult and Martz)
1.2 Comparison level: to judge whether what a person offers is better or worse that what
another might offer, we form a standard to which we compare all relationships
against. This is a product of our experiences and general views. If we judge potential
profit as exceeding the comparison level, it is worthwhile and the person is seen as
1.2.1 Looking at how people in relationships deal with potential
alternatives : reduce a potential threat to protect relationship.
Limitations - why people leave without other alternaties.
2 Equity theory, developed by Walster et al., 1978
2.1 Inequity and distress: people strive to achieve fairness in relationships and feel
distressed if they perceive unfairness. Those who give a great deal in a relationship
but receive little would perceive inequity, and so will those who give little, yet
receive a lot.
2.1.1 There is a difference between exchange and
communal relationships - communal are governed
by a desire to respond to the needs of a partner.
2.2 Ratio of input and output: what is considered 'fair' is a subjective opinion, and
relationships can be perceived as fair if they put in less and get out less. If
inequality is perceived, we restore it by adjusting what we put in, what we expect,
our perception of relative input and output. We may also compare to our
2.3 Some reject the claim that equity is key - it represents an
incomplete way of how married people behave with respect to
2.4 DeMaris - 1500 couples found that the only inequality associated with disruption is a woman sense of being under-benefited
3 Culture bias: Moghaddam - theories only apply to Western, short-term relationships of people with high mobility. Students in Western studies.
Real-world application: Integrated Behavioural Couples Therapy. Christensen et al., - over 60 distressed couples used IBCT and two-thirds reported
significant improvement. Gender: Steil and Weltman - in married couples, if a man earned more than the woman, they both rated his job as more
important, if she earned more than him, neither rated as more important.