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Outline and evaluate two explanations relating to the breakdown of relationships

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Introduction

Outline and evaluate two explanations relating to the breakdown of relationships Duck's model of relationship breakdown describes the breakdown of romantic relationships in a series of phases. The first phase is the intrapsychic phase, which involves the realisation of negative aspects about one's partner. If the negative aspects are not resolved, the couple will enter the dyadic phase, in which the problems that one partner is experiencing are brought to the attention of the other partner, with resolution attempts following. If such resolution attempts fail, the couple will enter the social phase, in which the relationship is doomed to end, and partners think of face-saving accounts of why the relationship will end. Finally, the partners enter the grave-dressing phase, in which the relationship has ended, and both partners communicate a socially acceptable account of what happened. This model of relationship breakdown has been widely criticised for being unidirectional, implying that if the smallest of problems arises, a couple is doomed to separate. ...read more.

Middle

He divided the risk factors into 'predisposing risk factors' and 'precipitating risk factors'; predisposing risk factors come from a realisation about characteristics of a partner that may have not been realised in the first stages of the relationship, and precipitating risk factors are external and develop separately from the relationship (e.g. infidelity, illness and jealousy). This may therefore offer a good explanation of how and why relationships break down when combined with the stage models. However, the limitation exists that even with such factors taken into account, the models focus on Western, monogamous, male-female relationships, and may not be suitable in describing the breakdown of friendships or non-Western dyadic relationships. Economic exchange theories have offered alternative explanations of relationships which involve the balance of rewards or ratio of rewards to inputs in the relationship. Thibaut & Kelley proposed a 'social exchange theory', which is based on the assumption that a relationship will be successful if each partner receives as many rewards as possible (rewards including sex, attention, affection, etc), and will therefore be unsuccessful if these rewards are not present. ...read more.

Conclusion

If this ratio is imbalanced, the relationship becomes 'inequitable', and distress is caused as a result. Research evidence supports this theory as an improvement on social exchange theory, for example Hatfield et al. Found that newlyweds in equitable relationships were more satisfied than those who received more benefits than the effort that they put in, who in turn were more satisfied than those who were underbenefited. Gergen et al., however, suggest that the two theories may work best together to overcome cultural differences: in their study, they found that European students preferred equality in the distribution of rewards (social exchange theory), whereas American students preferred equity (equity theory). Nonetheless, much of the research which has given support to economic exchange theories has taken place in artificial situations and may not be representative of real life due to their lack of ecological validity and mundane realism. Economic exchange theories may also be an improvement on stage models of relationship breakdown as they can be applied to friendship and polygamous or polyamourous relationships, therefore having more cross-cultural validity. Clive Newstead ...read more.

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A reasonably well structured essay using relevant theories and studies to debate the issues. Consider developing points about applications of the theories - for example how might relationship counsellors use these models to help couples restore their relationships? 3*

Marked by teacher Stephanie Duckworth 03/05/2013

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