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Discuss explanations of the maintenance of relationships

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´╗┐Discuss explanations of the maintenance of relationships: There are two main theories explaining the maintenance of relationships. The first is the social exchange theory. This claims that for the individual, the best result from a relationship would be to make a profit; for this to occur, there must be minimum costs and maximum reward. The principle of operant conditioning applies in this theory. If something is rewarding, e.g. companionship and sex, we pursue and value it. Yet on the other hand if something is costly, e.g. financial investment and opportunities missed, then we avoid it as we would avoid punishment. In terms of relationship profit, the rewards in a relationship must exceed or outweigh the costs. The less profit, the more chance there is that the relationship with terminate. Thibaut and Kelley introduced two comparison levels against which an existing relationship can be evaluated. These enable an individual to judge the ?value? of a current relationship against previous and future relationships. ...read more.


Aumer-Ryan et al (2007) interviewed men and women at the University of Hawaii (a relatively individualistic culture) and the University of the West Indies in Jamaica (a relatively collectivist culture). They found a cultural difference in how men and women from these different cultures perceived inequalities in their relationships. The Hawaiian sample were most satisfied when they perceived their relationships as equitable whereas the Jamaican sample were most satisfied when they perceived themselves to be over benefiting from their relationship. For both men and women in the Jamaican sample, equity was of less importance in determining relationship satisfaction. In a similar wary, the social exchange theory is also culturally biased. Moghaddam (1998) suggests that ?economic? theories such as the social exchange theory only apply to Western cultures and even then, only to certain types of relationships among individuals with high social mobility. Less mobile groups and members of many non-Western cultures would be more likely to value security in a relationship than personal profit. ...read more.


Therefore a relationship could be maintained because two people have secure, happy relationships due to their internal working model. It should be taken into account that there is conflicting research into this topic that is arguably subjective. For example research by Stafford and canary supports the equity theory. They surveyed 200 married couples about equity and satisfaction and satisfaction was lowest for those who perceived themselves as most under benefited. Yet research by Steil and Waltman found women generally rated a husband?s career as more important as their own. Therefore as women were found to seek less for themselves, this makes equity a less relevant explanation of relationship and satisfaction. Having conflicting research therefore makes this an unreliable field of psychology. In addition, the data obtained from such research is self-reported and due to the personal nature of questions, social desirability bias could be relevant. On an ethical level such research is arguably intrusive and could potentially risk participants to undue harm as realisation that they were perhaps putting more into their relationship than their partner could result in their unhappiness or anger. ...read more.

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