Relationships Summary

  • Formation, maintenance and breakdown of romantic relationships
  • Evolutionary explanations of human reproductive behaviour
  • Effects of early experience and culture on adult relationships

Relationship Formation, Maintenance & Breakdown

  • For romantic relationships to begin, there must be an attraction. Several factors have been identified that facilitate this: proximity, familiarity, similarity and physical attractiveness.
  • The sociobiological explanation is an evolutionary theory. It perceives relationship formation as a form of 'survival efficiency', with different focuses between males and females.
  • The reinforcement and needs satisfaction explanation is a behaviourist/learning explanation which sees conditioning as an explanation for relationship formation.
  • Social exchange theory explains relationships in terms of maximising benefits and minimising costs.
  • Equity theory views individuals as motivated to achieve fairness in their relationships and feel dissatisfied with unfairness.
  • Duck and Lee both proposed theories of dissolution which describe relationship break-ups as a series of stages to be worked through.
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Evolutionary Explanations of Reproductive Behaviou

  • Sexual selection involves the selection of characteristics increasing reproductive success.
  • Differences between male and female sexual behaviour have arisen, as they are exposed to different selective pressures.
  • Males and females have evolved different strategies to maximise reproductive success.
  • Parental investment concerns investment in individual offspring, which increases the offspring's chances of achieving reproductive success, at the expense of parents' ability to invest in other children.
  • Evolutionary theory predicts differences between how male and female parental investment differs, and these predictions have generally been supported.
  • Parent-offspring conflict concerns confrontations which arise from children desiring greater investment than parents have been selected to provide.
  • Offspring demonstrate various strategies in order to try and maximise parental investment in them at the expense of siblings.
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Early Experience & Culture

  • The continuity hypothesis predicts that infant attachment types persist into adulthood, predicting the nature of adult relationships. This is supported by research.
  • Evidence suggests that there is intergenerational continuity between adults' attachment styles and those of their children.
  • Relationships with peers influence later adult relationships, playing a key role in helping achieve independence.
  • Western cultures emphasise individualism, characterised by voluntary relationships, often of a short-term nature, based on ideas of romantic love.
  • Non-western cultures emphasise collectivism, characterised by arranged marriages, generally of a long-term nature, based on ideals of the common good.
  • Conflicts can arise in multicultural societies where a range of romantic relationship styles exist side by side.
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