Discuss research into the breakdown of romantic relationships (24 marks)

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Discuss research into the breakdown of romantic relationships (24 marks)
        Jan ‘12

Forming a relationship may seem relatively easy; however maintaining the relationship will be harder to do. Psychologists have come up with various theories to try and explain how to maintain a relationship alongside to the factors that cause the breakdown of it.

One theory that explains the breakdown of romantic relationships is the ‘Social Exchange Theory’ (SET). The theory states that relationships are based on a series of costs and rewards. It considers costs to an individual in a relationship, e.g. time, betrayal and jealousy. These are all costs in a relationship because you need to give up time to be with your partner in order for the relationship to progress. At some point inevitably you will be betrayed or will be jealous for some reason.

The theory argues that individuals in a relationship will unconsciously try to calculate the ratio of these costs and rewards. This therefore gathers that this ratio and the satisfaction of the individual is dependent on the outcome, and without a doubt, will determine the nature of the relationship.

It is natural that people will try to maximise rewards, for example the feeling of love and trust, from their relationship but minimise costs, as we are all selfish when it comes it rewards. It follows that if there is an unbalance between the costs and rewards then there will be an element of disappointment of one of the partners which will lead to the breakdown of the relationship. The SET claims that people are selfish and will try to minimise the costs. It’s evident that in order for a relationship to develop the rewards must not be outweighed by the costs.

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As with any other theory, the SET has some criticisms. The theoretical propositions with the theory are consistent with each other. It offers a plausible explanation for the maintenance of relationships because it helps us understand that if an individual is too selfish and maximises the rewards too much, then their partner will become unhappy which will lead to the breakdown of the relationship. Due to this, the theory could potentially generate new hypotheses and therefore expand the range of knowledge on this topic. Psychologists could begin to find out which costs or rewards are more involved in the maintenance ...

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