Social relationships development : Social Development

Social relationships development

When you start to feel that person ‘x’ doesn’t deserve a place in your life you are probably thinking about all the things that they bring to the relationship that you wish they didn’t and the things they don’t bring to the relationship that you wished they did.

Social exchange theory is a social psychological theory that views relationships as the result of a cost-reward calculation made by the individuals concerned. It states that if we feel the rewards received from being in a given relationship are outweighed by the costs of being in that relationship then the relationship will remain intact. If the inverse is true, then the relationship will dissolve.

Costs of being in a relationship may be effort, money spent, time spent, or low self-esteem, whilst the rewards may be pleasure, satisfaction, financial support, etc.

Whilst the theory has its critics, it certainly has many proponents too, two of them being, Thibaut and Kelley (1959). These social psychologists suggested four stages in the development of relationships in terms of the social exchange theory:

1. Sampling

Analysing the potential costs and rewards of entering into a relationship with someone.

2. Bargaining

A testing phase of giving and receiving rewards to understand whether a deeper relationship is worth forming.

3. Commitment

Sampling and bargaining is reduced and attraction to the other person will increase if the costs of being in a relationship are also reduced.

4. Institutionalisation

A relationship is recognised as having been formed and norms are developed that set the expectation of specific rewards and costs for the relationship’s continued success.

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