The sociobiological explanation is an evolutionary theory which perceives relationship formation as a form of ‘survival efficiency’, with different focus between genders.
Males are not certain of paternity and produce lots of sperm, so their best strategy to further their genes is to have multiple partners. The explanation sees males looking for signs of fertility such as smooth skin, and sexual faithfulness as they do not want to waste resources bringing up another male’s child (cuckoldry).On the other hand, females produce a small number of eggs, but are certain of maternity. Females seek to ensure that children are genetically strong and healthy by being selective in choosing partners and getting them to invest resources.
The more a male invests, the more likely it is that he will not desert and will offer further resources to the female and her children. Males compete to be chosen and females select males on characteristics reflecting genetic fitness.Courtship serves as a period during which competition and selection occurs and also to get males to invest resources, increasing the chances of them not deserting and investing more resources in the future. Support comes from Davis who, in 1990, performed a content analysis of personal advertisements, finding that men look for health and attractiveness, while offering wealth and resources.Females look for resources and status, while offering beauty and youth, supporting the idea of evolutionary-based gender differences in relationship formation.
Further support comes from Dunbar who, in 1995, analysed 900 personal advertisements from four US newspapers, finding that 42% of males sought youthfulness, while only 25% of females did. Of males, 44% sought attractiveness, while only 22% of females did, supporting the sociobiological idea that males and females have different reasons for forming relationships.Contradictory research comes from Harris who, in 2005, examined cultures dominated by different religious systems, finding that relationship behavioural patterns either contradicted sociobiological strategies of relationship formation or placed emphasis on cooperative restraint rather than survival through selfish propagation, as predicted by sociobiological theory. This indicates that many human societies have developed relationship systems going against sociobiological predictions.The sociobiological explanation presumes heterosexuality, that hildren are wanted and that all relationships are sexual; it is therefore reductionist, seeing relationships as a means of reproduction and therefore disregarding other reasons for being in romantic relationships such as companionship.
The explanation supports gender stereotypes of housebound women and sexually promiscuous males and therefore the explanation does not suit the modern environment as many women now have resources of their own and do not need to rely on the resources of men. Finally the explanation is deterministic, disregarding the role of free will in relationship formation.Another theory of formation of romantic relationships is the reinforcement and needs satisfaction explanation. This is a behaviourist explanation, perceiving conditioning as an explanation for relationship formation. According to operant conditioning, people may directly reward us by meeting our psychological needs for friendship, love and sex.
Their provision of such needs is reinforcing, and therefore we will like them more and spend more time with them, which ultimately increases the chances of relationship formation.People may also indirectly reward us, according to classical conditioning, because they become associated with pleasant circumstances, which makes us more likely to form a relationship. If we associate people with being in a good mood, or helping to remove a negative mood, we will find them attractive and will like them increasingly, furthering the chances of relationship formation. This theory is supported by May and Hamilton who, in 1980, asked females to rate photos of males, while either pleasant or unpleasant music was played.Those with the pleasant music rated the males as more attractive.
Further support comes from Griffit and Veitch who, in 1971, found that evaluations of strangers were positive when evaluations were made in comfortable surroundings, supporting the idea that conditioning by association explains relationship formation. Contradictory research comes from Hays who, in 1985, investigated student friendships, finding that rather than being focused purely on rewards received, individuals favoured equity (fairness), giving priority to rewarding the other person, thus weakening the explanation.A lot of research is lab based thus lacking ecological validity, as tasks carried out are not realistic, therefore not reflecting real relationships. Also, the theory can explain friendships, as people often like those who are reciprocal with their feelings, but it does not explain the intricacies of long-term romantic relationships. Furthermore, the theory has a fundamentally selfish view of people as only trying to satisfy their own needs.
Many people have genuine concerns for the needs of others.Finally the explanation is deterministic, disregarding the role of free will in relationship formation as the rewards and needs satisfaction theory sees relationship formation as an unconscious process based on learned associations. Discuss theories of relationship maintenance The social exchange theory is an economic theory, explaining relationships in terms of maximising benefits and minimising costs. The ‘social exchange’ is the mutual exchange of rewards between partners, like friendship and sex, and the costs of being in the relationship, such as freedoms given up.A person assesses their rewards by making two comparisons.
Firstly, the comparison level where rewards are compared to costs to judge profits. Secondly, the comparison level for alternative relationships where rewards and costs are compared against perceived rewards and costs for possible alternative relationships. A relationship is maintained if rewards exceed costs and the profit level is not exceeded by possible alternative relationships. Thibaut and Kelley et al (1959) proposed a four-stage model, setting out how relationships could be maintained.
It perceives that over time people develop a predictable and mutually beneficial pattern of exchanges, assisting the maintenance of relationships. The first stage is sampling, where rewards and costs are assessed in a number of relationships. The next stage is bargaining, where a relationship is ‘costed out’ and sources of profit and loss are identified. The third stage is commitment, where relationship is established and maintained by a predictable exchange of rewards. The final stage is institutionalisation, where interactions are established and the couple ‘settle down’.
The social exchange theory is supported by Rusbult who, in 1983, found that the costs and rewards of relationships were compared to the costs and rewards of potential alternative relationships in order to decide whether the relationship should be maintained, supporting the social exchange model’s idea that people assess rewards by making comparisons. Further support comes from Hatfield who, in 1979, looked at people who felt over-benefited or under-benefited.The under-benefited felt angry and deprived, while the over-benefited felt guilty and uncomfortable, supporting the theory by suggesting that egardless of whether individuals are benefited, they do not desire to maintain a relationship that is not fair. On the other hand, the methodologies that evaluated the social exchange theory were criticized by Argyle in 1988 who declared them to be contrived and artificial, with little relevance to real life.
Also the research has concentrated on the short-term consequences of relationships rather than important, long-term maintenance. Furthermore, the theory applies to people who ‘keep score’.Murstein et al, in 1977, devised the exchange orientation tool, identifying such scorekeepers, who are suspicious and insecure, suggesting that the theory only suits relationships lacking confidence and mutual trust. Another theory of relationship maintenance is the equity theory, which perceives individuals as motivated to achieve fairness in relationships and to feel dissatisfied with inequity. Maintenance of relationships occurs through balance and stability.
Relationships where individuals put in more than they receive, or receive more than they put in, are inequitable, leading to dissatisfaction, and possibly dissolution.Walster et al, in 1978, saw equity as based on four principles. The first principle is profit, in which rewards are maximised and costs are minimised. The next principle is distribution, in which trade-offs and compensations are negotiated to achieve fairness in a relationship. The third principle is dissatisfaction, the greater the degree of perceived unfairness, the greater the sense of dissatisfaction.
The final principle is realignment where if restoring equity is possible, maintenance will continue, with attempts made to realign equity.Support for the equity theory comes from Yum et al who, in 2009, looked at different types of heterosexual romantic relationships in six different cultures. As predicted by equity theory, maintenance strategies differed, with individuals in perceived equitable relationships engaging in most maintenance strategies, followed by those in perceived over-benefited and under-benefited relationships. Cultural factors had little effect, suggesting that equity theory can be applied to relationships across cultures.Further support comes from Dainton who, in 2003, studied 219 individuals in romantic relationships, finding that those in relationships of perceived inequity had low relationship satisfaction, but were motivated to return to an equitable state to maintain the relationship, suggesting that equity is a main factor in relationship satisfaction and maintenance. Contradictory research comes from Argyle who, in 1977, found that people in close relationships do not think in terms of rewards and costs unless they fell dissatisfied, implying that equity, at least in a conscious fashion, is not a valid explanation of relationship maintenance.
Mills and Clark, in 1982, believed that it is not possible to assess equity in loving relationships, as much input is emotional and therefore unquantifiable, and doing this diminishes the quality of love. Furthermore, Sprecher, in 1986, believed that close relationships are too complex to allow for precise assessment of various rewards and costs involved in establishing equity. Also, equity seems more important to females, suggesting that the theory is not applicable to both genders. This is supported by Hoschchild and Machung who, in 1989, found that women do most of the work to make relationships equitable.Moreover, some research suggests that equity theory does not apply to all cultures. Moghaddam et al, in 1983, found that US students prefer equity, but European students prefer equality, suggesting that the theory reflects the values of US society.
Discuss theories of relationship breakdown In 2001, Duck proposed three broad categories of why relationships break up. The first category is pre-existing doom where incompatibility and failure are almost predestined. The second category is Mechanical Failure where two suitable people of goodwill and good nature grow apart and find that they cannot live together.The final category is sudden death where the discovery of betrayal or infidelity leads to immediate termination of a relationship. Duck also proposed several other factors as contributing to relationship dissolution such as predisposing personal factor such as bad habits or emotional instabilities, precipitating factors such as love rivals and incompatible working hours, lack of skills such as being sexually inexperienced, lack of motivation such as perceived inequity, and lack of maintenance such as spending much time apart. Duck sees breaking up as comprising of several parts.
Duck’s explanation begins where one partner is sufficiently dissatisfied with the relationship over a long enough period of time to consider ending it. The first phase is the intrapsychic phase, during which one partner privately perceives dissatisfaction with the relationship. The second phase is the dyadic phase, during which the dissatisfaction is discussed. If it is not resolved there is a move to the next stage which is the social phase, during which the breakdown is made public. There is a negotiation about children, finances, and so on, with wider families and friends becoming involved.
The final phase is the grave dressing phase, during which a post-relationship view of the break-up is established, protecting self-esteem and rebuilding life towards new relationships. The theory has face validity as it is an account of relationship breakdown that we can relate to our own and/or others’ experiences. On the other hand, the theory does not take into account why dissatisfaction occurred in the first place as its starting point is where dissatisfaction has already set in. Therefore, it fails to provide a complete picture of the dissolution.Also, as with all stage theories, Duck’s four phases do not apply in every case of relationship breakdown, nor do they always occur in the order described.
Furthermore, the model does not apply to homosexual relationships, which do not involve some of the decisions over children that heterosexuals have to consider. Moreover, the model is simplistic as it does not account for relationships like casual affairs and friendships. The theory can be regarded as reductionist, focusing only on romantic, heterosexual relationships, suggesting that they are not applicable to friendships, homosexual relationships etc.In 1984, Lee proposed a five-stage model of relationship dissolution, similar to Duck’s explanation in being a stage theory and perceiving dissolution as a process occurring over time, rather than just a single event.
The first stage is dissatisfaction, in which an individual becomes dissatisfied with the relationship. The second stage is exposure, in which dissatisfaction is revealed to one’s partner. The next stage is negotiation, in which discussion occurs over the nature of the dissatisfaction. The fourth stage is resolution, in which attempts are made to resolve the dissatisfaction.The final stage is termination, in which if the dissatisfaction is not resolved, the relationship ends.
Lee created his theory after conducting a survey of 112 break-ups of non-marital romantic relationships, finding that the negotiation and exposure stages were most distressing and emotionally exhausting. Individuals, who missed out stages, going straight to termination, were those with less intimate relationships. Those going through the stages in a lengthy and exhaustive fashion felt attracted to heir former partner after termination and experienced greater feelings of loss and loneliness.The theory is simplistic as it cannot explain the whole range of relationships and reasons for dissolution.
Also, the theory cannot explain abusive relationships, where abused partner may not initiate the stages of dissolution, being reluctant to reveal their dissatisfaction. Instead, the abused partner may simply walk away from the relationship. Also, the theory is culturally specific, as there are cultural differences in relationship dissolutions that the theory does not explain.Many non-western cultures have arranged marriages, which can be more permanent and involve whole families in crises. A strength of Lee’s research was that a lot of information was gathered and the sample was large.
However, it only contained students in premarital relationships and may not relate to other relationships, especially long-term relationships involving children and shared resources. The model has practical applications in counselling. For example, if a couple are in the exposure stage, counsellors can concentrate on re-establishing affection in the relationship.