Formation/maintenance/breakdown of relationships

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Notes from booklet

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Slide 1

    Reward/Need Satisfaction Theory - A01
    Rewards and Punishment:We are most likely to form a romantic relationship with someone we find rewarding. Form of operant conditioning, as they are a source of reinforcement and therefore we will want to spend more time with them making relationship formation more likely. Theory also states we are motivated to avoid punishing stimuli.Attraction through association:Furthermore, the theory uses concept of classical conditioning, as it claims we are likely to be attracted to and so form relationships with people who we associate  
              with pleasant or rewarding events. If we meet someone                 when we are happy, we are much more inclined to like                   them that if we were feeling sad. In this way, a previously             neutral stimulus has become positively valued because                 of their association with a positive event.Similarity:There are two distinct stages in relationship formation, the first being people sort through potential partners for dissimilarity , avoiding those who seem too different from themselves. They then are most likely to choose somebody who is similar to themselves.  

Slide 2

    Reward/Need Satisfaction Theory - A02
    Cate et al: Asked 337 people who recently formed a relationship to assess it in terms or rewards and relationship satisfaction. Results showed that reward level was superior to all other factors in determining relationship satisfaction. This shows that reinforcement is a key factor in the terms of the formation of a romantic relationship.
    Aron et al: Found that participants who measured very highly on a self-report questionnaire of romantic love also showed strong activity in particular areas of the brain. Early stage, intense romantic love was associated with elevated levels of subcortical regions of the brain, rich in the neurotransmitter dopamine. This therefore suggests that the rewards are critical when forming relationships.

Slide 3

    Social Exchange Theory - A01
    According to SET, the underlying principle of the formation/maintenance/breakdown of relationships is that people are fundamentally selfish. We view our feelings for others in terms of profits (rewards minus costs.) Rewards include money, attention and love. Costs include disappointment, stress and embarrassment. If the rewards outweigh the costs, the relationship will form. If the rewards outweigh the costs, the relationship will be maintained. If the costs outweigh the rewards, the relationship will breakdown.
    Comparison Level: Thibaut and Kelly argue that our assessment of the rewards and costs of forming/maintaining a relationship depend on what an individual has come to expect from past relationships. In other words, we have a comparison level (CL) which represents the outcomes we believe we deserve based on past experiences. In addition, we also weigh up the costs and rewards that we might expect if we were to form a relationship with someone else, and this is known as the comparison level of alternatives (CLalt.) If the CLalt offers another viable and attractive relationship, then the current relationship may cease to be maintained/breakdown.   

Slide 4

    Social Exchange Theory - A02
    Formation: Murstein's matching hypothesis supports SET. States how ideally we'd all like to have the 'perfect' partner, but since this is impossible, we try to find a compromise; we settle for the best general bargain that can be struck. This is a subjective belief that the partner we are forming a relationship with is the most rewarding we could realistically hope for. Walster - carried out a questionnaire to find out what kind of partners people would like to take to a dance. He found that people tended to ask for a partner of a similar attraction level as themselves, which clearly supports the matching hypothesis as people are attracted to people who they see as having a similar level of physical attractiveness. The matching hypothesis in turn supports SET.
    Maintenance: Simpson asked participants to rate photos of members of the opposite sex for attractiveness. Those who were already involved in a relationship rated them as less attractive, showing that alternatives are not considered as favorably if the current relationship is profitable.  Rusbult et al used the notion of exchange to explain why some women stay in abusive relationships. They argue that when investment is high (e.g. children) and alternatives are few (e.g. nowhere else to live, no money) a profit situation still exists and so the woman will remain in the relationship.  

Slide 5

    Equity Theory - A01
    In SET we learnt that all social behaviour is a series of exchanges, with individuals attempting to maximise profits. Equity theory is an extension of that underlying belief, with its central assumption that people strive to achieve fairness in their relationships and feel distressed if they perceive unfairness.  According to equity theory, any kind of inequity has the potential to create distress. People who give a great deal in a relationship but receive very little in return would perceive inequity and therefore feel dissatisfied in the  
                relationship. However, the same is true of those who                     receive a great deal and give little in return. Any kind of inequity will lead to the maintenance of the relationship being threatened; maintenance requires equity. However, it is important to consider that equity does not necessarily mean equality. It is possible for different partners to put different amounts in; what matters is the subjective opinion of the individuals and their perceived ratio of inputs and outputs. 

Slide 6

    Equity Theory - A02
    Stafford and Canary: Asked over 200 married couples to complete measures of equity and relationship satisfaction.  Findings revealed that satisfaction was highest for spouses who perceived their relationship to be equitable, followed by over benefited partners and lowest for under-benefited partners.
    Clark and MillsDisagreed that the claim that all relationships are based on economics. They say that we may keep track of costs and rewards in our exchange relationships (e.g. work colleagues) but in communal relationships (e.g. friends, family, lovers) we are governed more by a desire to respond to the needs of that other person. 

Slide 7

    Ducks Model of Dissolution - A01
    The model explains the actual process of 'splitting up.' Made up of stages: The Intra-psychic phase - start of breakup is the unhappiness or dissatisfaction of at least one of the members of the couple. Inequitable relationships are likely to lead to this. Threshold = I cannot stand it anymore. The dyadic phase - couple may discuss possible changes to resolve the difficulties. May go to couples counseling. If this is partially successful then the relationship will continue if not the next threshold is reached. Threshold = I mean it. The social phase - the relationship problems are now aired publicly as the couple start to tell friends and families about their difficulties. Threshold = Now its inevitable. 
    The grave dressing phase - takes part after the couple have officially broken up. Both parties try to get across their side of the breakup to people that they want to look good to. These versions are usually face saving. Threshold = Time to get a new life. The resurrection phase - where we recreate our own sense of value and define what we want in future relationships. We start to prepare for different types of relationships. Threshold = What I learned and how things will be different. 

Slide 8

    Duck's Model of Dissolution - A02
    Tashiro et al : They surveyed undergraduates who had recently broken up with a romantic partner.  Found that they had typically experienced emotional distress, but also personal growth. They stated that the breakup had given them clear insight into themselves and a clearer idea about future partners. This has been accounted for in the final phase of Duck's model.
    However, the model fails to take into account why relationships break down, just how. It is clear, therefore, that on its own it doesn't offer us complete insight into this area and other models need to be considered. For example, economic theories which claim breakdown is inevitable if reward is not received in the relationship.

Slide 9

    Formation/maintenance/breakdown - A03
    Culturally biased:The theories do not account for cultural differences in the formation/maintenance/breakdown of relationships. In many cultures women are more focused on the rewards and needs of others, and so do not require as many rewards themselves to be satisfied in their relationship. Critics have argued that individualistic cultures are more driven by personal rewards, so the model is suited to only this culture. This is a limitation as it means the explanations are not universal.Reductionist:These models are reductionist as they focus purely on the behaviourist principles of rewards and costs and association when explaining human behaviour. These explanations only explore the receiving of rewards, however, research has shown that we gain satisfaction from giving rewards as well as receiving. This explanation of relationship formation/maintenance/breakdown is too simplistic. 

Slide 10

    Ethical Issues:Such research into the formation/maintenance/breakdown of relationships highlights ethical issues that surround this topic area. Asking people personal questions about their romantic preferences can lead to embarrassment (protection of participants) and raises the issies of informed consent and confidentiality. Gender Bias:Research into the formation/maintenance/breakdown of relationships can be said to be gender biased as the majority of participants who take part in the studies are women, as they are more open about taking about their relationships. This means that, whilst the findings may be applied to females, the same cannot be said to males, and so the research suffers from gender bias.Practical Applications:Individuals in unsuccessful marriages report lack of positive behaviour as a key cause of dissatisfaction. So the research into SET and equity theory has provided a primary goal for relationship therapy; increase the proportion of positive acts towards your partner. This is a strength as it shows how the research actually affects real lives; it saves marriages.
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