For this assignment, find and discuss online news articles published within the last 3 months on all of the following topics:
1. Any research dealing with some aspect of the family covered in class this term
2. Interracial relationships
3. Homosexuality, bisexuality, or transexuality
4. Family violence
5. Adoption (any aspect)
6. Extra-marital sexuality
7. Births outside of marriage
In this essay we shall examine the research on attachment, attraction and relationships. The intrinsic interest in these fields by most people is shared by social psychologists, and attachment, attraction, and love relationships constitute one of the most prolific areas of investigation in social psychology. The early attachment theory advanced by Bowlby (1982) emphasized the importance of the field when he suggested that our attachments to parents to a large extent shape all succeeding relationships in the future. Other research focus on exchange and communal relationships and point to the different ways we have of relating to each other. The importance of relationships cannot be overemphasized since we as humans have a fundamental need to belong. Relationships also contribute to the social self as discussed in the book, and effects social cognition discussed in the same (see: at the end of this article). The variables that determine attraction may be understood theoretically as functions of a reward perspective.
Most people do not care what mere acquaintances think of their preferences in life. Whatever acquaintances believe will have few consequences either good or bad. However, those people who are close to us can have profound effects on our goal attainment and our happiness. The frequency of interaction with intimate friends or family produces more opportunities for conflict. For example, a teenager wants to attend a party, but his parents want him to study. In intimate relationships we feel the stresses of life, and often latch out at those we should love and protect. The birth of a new child is experienced as stress by most couples, as is death in the family or other significant loss (Bradbury, Rogge, & Lawrence, 2001) but these types of stress usually does not lead to conflicts.
Other research has focused on the personality of those who divorce. People who come into a relationship with negative baggage from other relationships are more likely to split. Those who are neurotic, anxious, and emotionally volatile are divorce prone (Karney & Bradbury, 1997; Kurdek, 1992). Neurotics spend much time feeling negative emotions that negatively impacts the partner and the marriage. They are also more likely to bring other types of stress to the relationship including health issues and problems (Watson & Pennebaker, 1989). Neurotic people react strongly to interpersonal conflict and therefore are less satisfied in relationships (Bolger & Schilling, 1991). If a person is overly sensitive, he or she is more likely to look for rejection and have greater difficulties in establishing or continuing intimate relationships (Downey & Feldman, 1996;Downey, Freitas, Michaelis, & Khouri, 1998).
Why do relationships fail? We live in a world dominated by preoccupations about what is fair in relationships, is it a wonder that couples tire of the constant negotiations? Social exchange theory has helped researchers identify both destructive and constructive behaviors affecting divorce (Rusbult, 1987; Rusbult & Zembrodt, 1983). Contributing to divorce occurs when one party abuses his/her partner and threatens to leave the marriage. Other couples allow the relationship to slowly deteriorate by passively retreating and refusing to deal with issues. When both parties exhibit these destructive patterns, divorce is the typical outcome (Rusbult, Yovetich, & Verne, 1996).
In communal relationships, such as families, on the other hand, people’s outcome depends on their need. In family relationships we give what we can, and receive from the family what it is able to provide. Communal relationships are typically long-lasting, and promote feelings of mutual responsibility (Clark & Mills, 1979). We look after our children not because we expect a reward, but rather to respond to the needs of our dependants. Likewise children look after their infirm parents, because of feelings of responsibility. In intimate relationships partners respond to the needs of the other, without expecting to be paid back in exact coin or immediately. There may be rewards for both parties in the long run. In short, exchange theory better predicts behavior in relationships where the parties are preoccupied with inputs and rewards, whereas in communal relations the partners are more concerned with meeting the needs of the relationship (Clark, Mills, Powell, 1986).
Exchange relationships also exist between strangers or in functional relationships at work. Exchange relationships tend to be more temporary and the partners feel less responsibility toward one another compared to more intimate relationships. Satisfaction in all exchange relationships is as noted determined by the principle of fairness. Did your professor give you a grade that reflected your work? Work related outcomes and satisfactions are determined by application of the fairness principle.
So there are variations in how power works out in relationships. In some relationships the man is totally dominant, and some cultures support this sex role resolution. However, we have observed many changes in gender roles and relations over the past decades. Women have gained more social power and more equity in intimate relationships. In one US survey of married couples the majority (64%) claimed equality in power relations (Blumstein & Schawartz, 1983). A large number (27%) reported that the man was dominant, and 9 percent that the wife controlled power in the marriage. In a more recent US study (Felmlee, 1994) 48 percent of the women and 42 percent of the men described their relationship as equal in power, with most of the remaining respondents reporting that the man was dominant. Couples can achieve equality in different ways with a division of responsibilities. Depending on the situation one of the parties may have more power, but overall there is a sense of equality. Some studies find that consensus between a couple is more important than negotiating all the fine details of power sharing, and relationship satisfaction appears equally high in male dominated as in power sharing relationships (Peplau, 1984). In close relationships there is less need to negotiate everything and produce equitable solutions. If the satisfaction level is high, the parties are less concerned with perfect equity. It is whether the relationship is rewarding that counts (Berscheid & Reis, 1998).
Partners may have different resources. When the man has resource advantages, he also tends to be more dominant. When the wife earns at least 50 percent of the household income, there is more equitable power sharing. Power is also partly based on the feelings of dependency within the relationship (Waller, 1938). When one partner is more dependent, the other has more power. This holds also for psychological dependency. If one partner has a greater interest in maintaining the relationship than the other, the dependency gives more power to the partner.
Cultural differences affect relationships. In Western society some of our relationships reflect market economic values such as exchange and some forms of equity. Asian societies have in the past been based on more traditional, communal standards. Economic companies in Asia often take a paternal role, offering life long job security. How are the new market economies affecting psychology in Asia and Eastern Europe? Assuming a relationship between economic relations and psychology, we might expect a greater shift toward social exchange relations. Social exchange theory also plays a role in intimate relationships in a variety of cultures (Lin & Rusbult, 1995; Rusbult & Van Lange, 1996; Van Lange, Rusbolt, Drigotas, Arriaga, Witcher, & Cox, 1997). Although communal relations are more characteristic of interdependent cultures, there is still a role for social exchange for some relationships in these societies as well as in more independent cultures.
What determines power in a relationship? Social norms about gender behavior are a powerful determinant. Traditionally women were taught to respect the dominant role of men as “head” of the family. The man historically had total control over wife and children. Today similar traditional patterns continue throughout the world. There is even the very famous case of a princess in the Saudi Arabian royal family who was executed by orders of her grandfather. Her offense was having a relationship based on romance rather than accepting her father’s decision for an arranged marriage. These so-called honor killings, when women are murdered to restore family ”honor”, follow a similar pattern of absolute male control. In the western world these traditional gender roles are giving way to more equitable relations in society and in the family.