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Discuss one or more theories into the maintenance of relationships

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Introduction

Discuss one or more theories into the maintenance of relationships (24 marks) There are no clear boundaries between the formation & maintenance of relationships. The Rewards/Needs satisfaction theory suggests long-term relationships are formed & maintained by meeting the needs of the other person, by providing rewards. Smith & Mackie supported the view of meeting biological, emotional & social needs, all which vary depending on the relationship at different progressions. Clark however, argues that rewards aren't exchanged tit for tat within a relationship, but to provide pleasure & increase well being of the other person. Economic theories explain how relationships are maintained & why they breakdown. Homan's social exchange theory suggests people aim to maximise rewards & reduce costs within their relationships. Rewards include; being cared for, companionship & sex, costs however include; effort, financial investment & missed opportunities with others. If the rewards are greater than the costs, then the relationship is seen as profitable, however if the opposite is true the relationship is costly, meaning that the people involved are likely to be dissatisfied, which may lead to a breakdown of the relationship. ...read more.

Middle

Simpson found support for this, with people in a relationship giving alternatives a lower rating, which may have been to improve the comparison level of their current relationship. The comparison level has been criticised because it assumes people are selfish & spend time thinking about the costs & rewards of their current relationships. Duck argued people only start to consider alternative relationships when they become dissatisfied with their current relationship. The theory also doesn't account for those who leave a relationship without an alternative, which the comparison level can't explain. People stay in abusive relationships despite the costs, which Argyle argued was because they have too much invested - a more likely reason. The investment model by Rusbult suggests commitment is important in maintenance of relationship & can determine if relationship will breakdown. Commitment demonstrates the level of satisfaction within a relationship, with the model believing that commitment is a reward within the relationship, which is better than the alternatives & substantial investment. ...read more.

Conclusion

The longitudinal method means that participant variables are consistent, & depicts sequence & continuity of the relationships rather than just a snapshot. However the questions about costs & benefits, from the research, could be influenced by researchers biased, as the study was conducted as an interview & the experimenter could have neglected other possible explanations. Hence the theory may be "artefact of the methodology". There is also a question as to whether the Equity theory can explain maintenance of western relationships. It is less effective in collectivist non-western cultures or cultures where freedom to leave the relationship is limited by laws & social norms. The economic theories of relationships are ethnocentric & an etic analysis or attempt to apply them in other cultures would be inappropriate. This suggests that how relationships are maintained is based on the nurture of the individual, with culture being a key factor. Duck argued focusing on narrow aspects of relationships at a particular point in time, rather than a more holistic view research, has misrepresented relationships. It would be better to study relationships as processes rather than states. ...read more.

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