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outline and evaluate the formation of relationships

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Outline and evaluate theories of the formation And maintenance of relationships The formation of relationships refers to the process behind which we go from an initial attraction to a stage of commitment to the individual. Maintaining a relationship refers to those behaviours, skills and tactics which ensure that a relationship endures and resists dissolution. The most commonly sighted theory behind the formation of relationships is known as the reinforcement affect model. This theory suggests that the formation and maintenance of relationships is based on the principles of classical and operant conditioning. According to Byrne and Core a relationship occurs when we are consistently reinforced and our psychological and physiological needs are rewarded. Direct rewards include sex, friendship, love etc. Byrne and Clore suggest that classical conditioning can also play a role in the maintenance of relationships. They argue that we form a relationship with those we associate pleasant feelings, or outcomes with. The person themselves needn't behave in a way to elicit positive emotion, in fact if one is in a good mood and consistently sees a particular person when in this mood, that person will become associated with pleasant emotion and an attraction to that person will develop. ...read more.


Due to this the findings may not be applicable to real life so they lack ecological validity. Overall the reinforcement affect model provides an adequate account for the formation and maintenance of relationships. However the theory is lacking in some regards is it is reductionist. It takes the complex nature of relationships and boils it down to the simple stimulus and response link. As a result the theory is oversimplified as it ignores the complexity of relationships. It is also deterministic as it assumes we are passive and allow conditioning to dictate our behaviour when in reality we have free will and may select a partner who need not be associated with pleasant stimuli. An alternative explanation for the formation and maintenance was proposed by Thibault and Kelley who developed the social exchange theory. According to this theory relationships are seen as a balance sheet, whereby the couples calculate the rewards of being in a relationship minus the costs of maintaining that relationship. If the outcome is profitable in the sense rewards outweigh the costs, then the relationship is entered or maintained. ...read more.


As a result such couples are less likely to view their relationships as a balance sheet and more likely to see it as what they can do to help make the relationship work even if it means accepting unfair treatment. Another flaw of this explanation is it paints a very selfish picture of relationships in which both parties are seeking to maximise their own benefits. This may not apply to all couples. Clark and mills distinguish between communal and exchange relationships. The former type focuses on mutual satisfaction and pleasing one another whereas the latter focus on exchanging rewards and costs. As a result we can assume that this theory only explains certain relationships and fails to account for a broader spectrum of relationships. Finally the theory talks about abstract concepts of rewards and costs which are difficult to operationalise and measure. As a result the theory can not be objectively tested as what are rewards for some may not be for others, and what is deemed as a positive outcome for some may not be for others. As a result the theory lacks scientific rigor. ...read more.

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