AO1 (SET AND EQUITY) (8)
The Social exchange theory (SET) proposed by Thibut and Kelley attempts to explain how romantic relationships are maintained by concentrating on the ‘profits’ and ‘costs’ of a relationship. This theory consists of a four stage model which includes: ‘Sampling’ where the couple explores the rewards and costs in a variety of relationships. ‘Bargaining’ is where the couple ‘costs out’ the relationship and identifies the sources of profit and loss. ‘Commitment’ is when the couple settles into a relationship; the exchange of rewards becomes predictable, and lastly, ‘institutionalisation’ where the interactions are established and the couple have ‘settled down’.
Thibaut and Kelley both recognized the importance of influences beyond an analysis of the relationship itself. So, they introduced two ‘reference’ levels; the comparison level and the comparison level for alternatives. The comparison level is concerned with past and present; that is, the comparison between the rewards and costs of the reference (current) relationship and what we have been used to in the past or believe is appropriate. We have motivation to stay in the relationship if it compares favourably to the reference relationship. The comparison level for alternatives, on the other hand, is concerned with the benefits of possible alternative relationships. We compare the outcomes of the reference relationship with others that we could be in and if this potential relationship is favourable the current relationship may end.
Equity Theory proposed by Walster et al is the second theory of relationship maintenance and is an extension of the SET but focusses on fairness. Equity Theory suggests four principles that underpin equity in relationships. Firstly, that people try to maximize their rewards. Secondly, that couples trade rewards to ensure fairness, e.g. one partner doing all the house work and the other bringing the money in. Thirdly, inequity will produce dissatisfaction and...