Outline and Evaluate Research Into the Breakdown of Relationships

Topics: Sociology, Social exchange theory, John Thibaut Pages: 2 (707 words) Published: November 14, 2012
Outline and evaluate research into the breakdown of romantic relationships. (24 marks) One piece of research into the breakdown of romantic relationships conducted by Thibaut and Kelly, can explain why a relationship may breakdown using the Social Exchange Theory. A relationship may breakdown due to the ‘profits’ and ‘losses’ in the relationship, one of the participants in the relationship may compare the current relationship to a previous one and realise they are not getting what they should be out of it. However, Hatfield’s Equity Theory suggests that individuals in a relationship are not trying to maximise the benefits and minimise the costs, but the happiest individuals were the ones where the rewards for both parties were equal. Therefore, a relationship may not breakdown because a person is under-benefitting but because there is an imbalance in the rewards. This research is supported by further research carried out by Hatfield which shows that the happiest newlyweds were the ones who felt like they both inputted equally into the relationship and had equal rewards. The ones under-benefitted had feelings of anger, resentment and deprivation, and those over benefitted felt guilty and uncomfortable. However, this may not mean that a relationship will break down. Karney and Bradbury (1995) found that marital unhappiness did not strong predict a future divorce. A problem with both of the theories is that they cannot explain why people stay in unhappy relationships, where the costs are clearly outweighing the benefits, or where the rewards are unequal. For example in an abusive relationship, many partners stay in the relationship even though they are not having any benefits from it. Another criticism of the social exchange theory is that they imply that people are extremely selfish and underestimates the role of altruism. There are also problems when trying to quantify the costs and benefits in a relationship. A problem with the equity theory is that there are...
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