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Outline and evaluate two theories of the maintenance of relationships.

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Introduction

´╗┐Outline and evaluate two theories of the maintenance of relationships. The social exchange theory is the assumption that all social behaviour is a series of exchanges; individuals attempt to maximize their rewards and minimise their costs in a relationship. Rewards that we may receive from a relationship include being cared for, companionship and sex. Costs may include effort, financial investment and time wasted (i.e. missed opportunities with others because of being in that particular relationship). Rewards minus costs equal the outcome (a profit or loss). Social exchange, in line with other ?economic? theories of human behaviour, stresses that commitment to a relationship is dependent on the profitability of this outcome. The notion of exchange has been used to explain why some women stay in abusive relationships. It was argued that when investments are high (children, financial security) and alternatives are low (e.g. nowhere else to live, no money) this could still be considered a profitable situation and a woman might choose to remain in such a relationship. ...read more.

Middle

Support for comparison level can be found by looking at how people in a relationship deal with potential alternatives; one way of dealing with such potential threats is to reduce them as a means of protecting the relationship. Simpson et al. (1990) asked participants to rate members of the opposite sex in terms of attractiveness; those participants who were already involved in a relationship gave lower ratings. However, Social exchange theory does not explain why some people leave relationships despite having no alternative, nor does it suggest how great the disparity in CL has to be to become unsatisfactory. Equity theory is an extension of the social exchange theory, with its central assumption that people strive to achieve fairness in their relationships and feel distressed if they perceive unfairness. People who give a great deal in a relationship and get little in return would perceive inequity, and therefore would be dissatisfied in the relationship. However, the same is true for those who receive a great deal and give little in return. ...read more.

Conclusion

Findings revealed that satisfaction was highest for spouses who perceived their relationships to be equitable, followed by over-benefited partners and lowest for under-benefited partners. These findings are consistent with predictions from equity theory. Some sociologists reject the claim that equity is a key determinant of relationship satisfaction. They argue that this represents ??an incomplete rendering of the way in which married people behave with respect to each other?, and that equity theory is, therefore, an insufficient theory to explain marital maintenance. Research suggests that men and women might judge the equity of a relationship differently. For example, it was found that, among married working couples, husbands who earned more than their wives rated their own careers as more important than their wives? careers. In such couples the women generally also rated their husbands? careers as more important than their own. However, in couples where the woman earned more money than the man, neither partner rated their career as more important. Researchers concluded that: ?wives? tendency to seek less for themselves than men, impeded the achievement of equality at home. ...read more.

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