To what extent can close relationships be considered a personal, private matter or should social psychologists engage with aspects of society in order to provide an adequate understanding? Make use of one of the interrogative themes in your discussion.
This essay will use the model of the diversity of family relationships to demonstrate the processes that social psychologists employ to study the complex intricacies from the social psychoanalytical and social cognitive perspectives of close relationships in sibling relationships and couples. It will acknowledge the conflicted psyche in dynamic relation with the external world in the social psychoanalytical perspective and the individual as an “information processor” within their social world from a cognitive social perspective, and discuss whether this is as a result of individual choice and agency indicating autonomy, or the societal pressures experienced and structures or forces of society that influence human behaviours. After reading the research papers, my inclination is to agree with Steve Duck suggestion (1999, cited in Sclater, 2007) that when considering close relationships it is necessary to take account of a multiplicity of factors in order to be able to make an evaluation. Close relationships are both formed by the individual as well as the social world around them and each is interwoven in their creation.
The ability to form and maintain close personal relationships is a fundamental part of human existence. From the moment we are born, our family generally become the most important influence on our future emotional and physical development into adults. The people we come into contact with during our developmental years, our friends, teachers, relatives and other social contacts will all contribute to sculpt the mature adults we will eventually become. The close relationships that we have throughout our lives can be complex however, and don’t always fit in with the normative views of society in general. The ideology of a “traditional”, normative heterosexual family no longer exists as such, with a change from the nucleus family – for example, the decline in marriage, increase in cohabitation and children born outside of marriage, the increase in divorce and trend of extended (blended) families and society’s gradual acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships/marriages/parenting. With such diversity in human relationships, it is therefore difficult for psychologists to generalise on what constitutes a family and aspects of relationships also the patterns and processes involved or to predict patterns of behaviour, but studies are still carried out to find out what makes people attracted to each other, why they fall in love, what causes people to stay together in a relationship and the type of problems that cause conflicts in relationships and whether this is brought about by the individual involved or through involvement of the social world that shape behaviours. The tensions of defining “family” emphasise the importance of the divergent courses of social psychology towards sociological social psychology (SSP) to study societal processes and people as part of the culture and structures they live within and psychological social psychology (PSP) highlights the important role of the family especially in child development and early socialisation.
People's behaviours cannot exist in a vacuum and must be considered as positioned within the wider social, cultural, economic and political group that affects them and this will have different outcomes on relationships. For example, if a member of a social group starts a new close relationship be it personal or romantic, it will in turn be likely to affect their behaviour towards the group, and cause a ripple effect. The person will devote some of their time to the new relationship, their social system will also be a factor, and thus all the cogs of the machine will be potentially behaving differently as a...
References: Day Sclater, S. (2007) ‘Close Relationships’ in D. Langdridge and S. Taylor, ‘Critical Readings in Social Psychology’, Milton Keynes, Open University Press.
Hollway, W. (2007) ‘Self´ in W. Hollway, H. Lucey and A. Phoenix (eds.) Social Psychology Matters, Milton Keynes, Open University Press.
Lucey, H. (2007) ‘Families’ in W. Hollway, H. Lucey and A. Phoenix (eds.) Social Psychology Matters, Milton Keynes, Open University Press.
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