Describe and evaluate two or more theories of the formation of romantic relationships. (24 marks)

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Describe and evaluate two or more theories of the formation of romantic relationships. (24 marks)

By looking at the process by which people enter into a romantic relationship, psychologists have come up with various theories and hypotheses to explain the formation of a romantic relationship. There are 2 theories that help explain why people choose one person over another, or why some fail before even starting.

One of these theories is the ‘Filter Model’ (FM) which was proposed by Kerchoff and Davis in 1962. This theory argues that relationships develop through 3 filters so different factors are important at different times. There are many potential partners but slowly we narrow it to potential partners that we could realistically form a romantic relationship will; so basically we come up with a small field of desirables.

The first filter looks at demographic or social variables. So we discard those people who we will never come into contact during our lives. Therefore this leaves us with the people who we tend to mix with: go to school/ work, live in the same area or do the same activities or sports. As we can’t meet everyone in the world, millions are automatically filtered out as it would be impossible to establish a relationship with them. The second filter looks at similarities of attitudes and values. If couples share ideas, values and beliefs then communication will be easy. But if people are very different communication will be difficult so very different people are filtered out. The last filter is that of complementary needs. Once the relationship is established we take into account how well the couple are together and how they meet each other’s needs. If the partners don’t complement each other then they will be filtered out.

This FM theory is supported by various studies, for example, one researcher tested the model and found that in the initial stages of a relationship filter 2 was the most important, but after 18 months filter 3 was more important. This supports the theory because it says that some factors are important at different times. At the beginning of the relationship communication is the key. So stage 2 filters out those who are very different to us so we are left with people that share our values, ideas and beliefs. After we have found someone who shares these attitudes and beliefs, the complementary needs start to become more important. In this study we found it was after 18 months, which sounds about right because you’ve already got to know the person and you’re beginning to get in a long term relationship where one partner has to complement the other’s needs for the relationship to advance. In addition to this, by explaining relationship formation in stages it fails to capture their fluid and dynamic nature. Some relationships flow at a slower or faster rate than the model suggests. So it may not be at 18 months where the 3rd filter is most important.

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Furthermore, Sprecher (1998) found that those matched in physical attractiveness, social background and interests were more likely to develop a long term relationship. This also supports the study because in the second stage we filter out those who are very different to us. If one partner is very physically attractive but the other isn’t, then this person will feel insecure because they think they shouldn’t be together and they their partner should be with someone of their ‘standards’. Also if they are very different, they won’t have much to talk about as their shared values and attitudes are very limited. ...

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