Social Exchange Theory

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The Social Exchange Theory was very interesting for me to research as I was not familiar with it before this class. I learned about the basic parts of the theory, how it can pertain to marriage and divorce, and how it can help me in parenting.

Self-interest is the main focus of this particular theory and can be described as a utilitarian way of thinking. After more research, I learned that utilitarian thinking in family studies is concerned with achieving outcomes that are most valued (White & Klein, 2008). Within this theory, the actors are most concerned with rewards and costs. Rewards are considered anything that is perceived as beneficial to the person’s interest, and the costs are just the inverse of the rewards. As a past math teacher, this was analytically easy for me to understand, but seemed very selfish to me. To me, someone who based their relationships and choices on this theory did it for their own personal profit and maximization. Even if there are no rewards, the actors will make whatever choices are necessary to minimize the costs (Chibucos & Leite, 2005).

I did not fully accept and understand the social exchange theory until I read the additional assigned readings. One of these articles was written by Susan Sprecher. She completed a longitudinal study on the social exchange theory within dating couples (Chibucos & Leite, 2005). As I examined her findings, I realized that most individuals make choices based on rewards and costs, and I sometimes refer to them as pros and cons of a decision. It did not seem so selfish, but more of a well thought out plan. I also realized that I had made choices as described by the social exchange theory many times in my life, specifically concerning my long-term relationships.

I chose to get married in 1990 because the benefits outweighed the costs of marriage. Yes, I even made a list. The benefits included companionship of the one I loved and trusted, the option to...
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