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Describe and evaluate research relating to the formation and/or maintenance of relationships

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Describe and evaluate research relating to the formation and/or maintenance of relationships From an evolutionary perspective, we choose a partner, and hence form a relationship, by assessing how useful they will be for the purposes of reproduction and survival. For example, it is predicted that males look for youthfulness and a low waist-hip ratio (Singh, 1993) in women as they are indications of fertility and health. As male fertility has little dependence on age, females may seek older and stronger men as they would be fertile and able to offer protection for them and their children. Evidence for this comes from Dunbar (1995) who, in a study of lonely hearts advertisements, women sought resources and offered good looks, and men offered resources and sought good looks. Singh (1993, 1994) developed a set of line drawings of women with different waste-hip ratios (WHR) and found that men typically preferred a low WHR of about 0.7. This study was criticised for lacking mundane realism as they were just line drawings, but Henss (2000) found, when using real-life photographs of women which were altered computationally to represent different WHRs, that 0.7 was still the preferred ratio. ...read more.


Evidence for this comes from Rusbult (1983), who found that when people were deciding whether to end a relationship, they weighed up the rewards and costs of the relationship and considered the alternatives open to them. This implies that for a relationship to continue, there is an assessment of the rewards and costs of the relationship and of alternatives, therefore supporting economic exchange theories. However, despite the face validity of theories such as Equity Theory, research into economic exchange theories has been associated with contrived methodologies that have little ecological validity. There has also been a lot of emphasis on short-term relationships and little consideration of, for example, marriages; and the research also did not examine the longer-term dynamics of relationships over time. These dynamics can be examined in greater detail, however, when ideas such as maintenance strategies are taken into account; for example, avoidance strategies, whereby one partner avoids discussion of the future with the other partner if they feel that the other partner does not want to continue the relationship but they do (Ayres, 1983). Supporting this, Dindia & Baxter (1987) ...read more.


Lund (1985) found that investment size was more important in determining the level of commitment than were satisfaction or rewards. Michaels et al. (1986) found that commitment was stronger when the outcomes of the relationship exceeded those anticipated in alternative relationships, and that the extent to which relationship was equitable did not predict commitment. This is therefore in direct contrast with Equity Theory. However, Rusbult's approach may not be sufficient, since the three factors are not entirely independent of each other, so, for example, an individual may invest more in a relationship as a result of being satisfied with it. Additionally, she focussed heavily on short-term rather than long-term relationships. These theories are largely concerned with the interactions between only the two people in the relationship, which may be a reductionist idea � Hagestad & Smyer (1982) said that social factors such as the expectations of friends and family can be significant in maintaining relationships. This identifies external factors not considered in other research above, and may be particularly relevant when examining relationships in collectivist cultures, where the expectations and opinions of others may have a much larger impact than in individualist cultures. Clive Newstead ...read more.

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