Monday, October 29, 2007
Blog 2: Development and Maturation of Relationships
THE DEVELOPMENT AND MATURATION OF RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH STAGES
This blog will critically examine a number of theories pertaining to stages relationships go through during development. Specifically, the Stimulus-value-role Model will be discussed in detail, with reference to research. Furthermore, the uncanny similarity between this model and Social penetration theory, Stage theory, and the Relational development Model will be discussed and presented within a table. A dissimilar theory, the Parental Investment Model will also be discussed in depth, with the evolutionary roots of the model clearly emphasised. Finally, discussed theories will be evaluated in application to personal relationship examples.
The Stimulus-value-role model seeks to explain how we choose our intimate partners through a three stage model, with the first stage being the stimulus stage, followed by the value stage and finally the role stage. Within each stage the dynamics of attraction and interaction are explained in terms of social-exchange theory, specifically the ‘give and take’ principle and the balance of these exchanges. The Stimulus-Value-Role Model suggests that in a relatively free choice situation most couples pass through these three stages before marriage.
The stimulus stage
In a situation where a man and woman do don’t know each other; one may be drawn to another based on their perception of physical, social, mental, or reputational attributes. Powell (2007) has discussed, in depth, what humans consider attractive. Furthermore, the stimulus stage also involves appraisal of one’s own attributes which they may perceive to be attractive to the other person.
The value stage
The value stage requires verbal interaction in order to examine each other’s values and determine value compatibility. General values which may be explored during this stage include; attitudes towards life, politics, religion, sex, and the roles of men and women in society and marriage (Sinque, 2002). As this stage it is also possible for closer appraisal of stimulus values as well as temperament and ability to relate to others. Such close appraisal of stimulus values, and general values may lead to reduced desirability and termination of contact (Simnque, 2002). However, Murstein (1970) suggests where initial stimulus attraction has been strong; couples are less likely to terminate contact during the value stage.
The role stage
During the role stage a couple faces three tasks before contemplating marriage; role fit, personal adequacy, and sexual compatibility. Role fit involves each partners increased awareness of what they desire in a future spouse and their more conscious comparison of these expectations with their perception of their partner. Personal adequacy includes taking measurement of oneself and partner and examining inadequacies which bear high costs upon marriage. And finally, prior to marriage a couple must attain sexual consistency (achieving a good sexual relationship) and agree to the degree of which sexuality will be expressed during marriage (Murstein, 1970).
The value-stage-role model has been empirically tested by Murstein (1970), who validated the theory based on the confirmation of nineteen hypotheses pertaining to the efficacy of the theory. However, Murstein has suggested future research determine whether reported findings can be replicated and whether alternative models will also account for these findings equally or perhaps even better.
Social penetration theory, Stage theory, and the Relational Development Model are also dominant relationship stage theories. Similar to the Stimulus-value-role model, each of these theories has an initial attraction stage, a growth stage, and a stage of stability. Appendix B presents a table which demonstrates specific similarities between stages and each theory. However, unlike the stimulus-value-role model, social penetration theory, stage theory and the relational development model each contain a closure stage. The closure stage, as described by each of these theories, occurs when costs of the relationship exceed benefits and the relationship finally breaks down. Cutright and Cutright (2006) explain the closure stage must occur in every relationship whether it be a break-down of the relationship or even the death of a partner.
Although the discussed theories are comprehensive and describe relevant stages of relationship development, they do not discuss a stage of ‘power struggle’. Cutright and Cutright (2006) argue the power struggle stage is of the most important stages of any relationship. The power struggle is just that, a struggle between each partner to a relationship to gain power over the direction of the relationship. Cutright and Cutright (2006) believe a power struggle is a necessary stage for couples to build trust as their relationship matures. Furthermore, each time a relationship increases in commitment (i.e. buying a house, or having children) the amount of trust required also increases, meaning it is inevitable for a power struggle to occur more than once. Unfortunately, Cutright and Cutright’s (2006) theory of relationship lacks academic support and solid research. A new model of relationship development is proposed which incorporates the unanimous stages of the stimulus-value-role model, social penetration theory, stage theory, and the relational development model (especially the closure stage, as it must occur in every relationship), as well as a power struggle stage.
Unlike that of previously discussed relationship stage models, the parental investment model is an evolutionary theory based upon Darwin’s notion of sexual selection. Sexual selection refers to selection of a mate based upon traits which increase the probability of reproduction (Kenrick et al., 1990).The underlying principle of the parental investment model is; the amount of parental investment required within a relationship should, and does determine the selection criteria for potential mates. (Kenrick et al., 1990).
According to Trivers’ (1972) the parental investment model leads to two predictions; (1) both males and females will exhibit more stringent mate choice in mating situations entailing a higher level or risk of parental investment, and (2) there will be a discrepancy in the stringency of male and female choosiness that is more or less proportional to their differential risk of parental investment.
Kenrick et al. (1990) conducted the first major test of the parental investment model, investigating the effect of level of parental investment on the stringency of mate choice in mate choice relationships entailing different risks of pregnancy. The two predictions of the parental investment model were in-fact confirmed, females were significantly choosier than males in selecting a mate for a relationship with high risk of pregnancy, and choosiness increased for both males and females as the risk of parental investment increased. Unpredicted by the model, females were significantly more stringent than males when it came to selecting a mate for a one-off sexual encounter with the risk of pregnancy (Kenrick et al., 1990). Woodward and Richards (2004) have been critical of Kenrick et al.’s (1990) study suggesting it examines mate choice as it relates to perceived risk of parental investment rather than real risk.
For the purpose of this blog, the selection of a potential mate based upon exhibited traits will be understood as a stage of mate selection. For example, if a potential mate does not exhibit desirable traits, he cannot advance to the stage of making a parental investment.
So what traits are desirable when it comes to mate selection with high risk of parental investment? Kenrick et al. (1990) hypothesised sexes would differ most on criteria related to status and dominance, which was supported. Males were more selective regarding physical attractiveness, whereas females were more selective regarding traits related to resource location and dominance, which supports the findings of Buss and Barnes (1986). ‘This follows the typical mammalian pattern of the evolutionary perspective, in which a female selects a dominant male who will contribute desirable genes.’ Appendix C presents statistical results for traits studied by Kenrick et al. (1990) at the stage where sexual relations occurs (the presented table also shows statistics for traits at different relationship stages not discussed in this blog).
In application to personal relationships, the Stimulus-value-role Model and similar theories discussed are accurate in describing the stages this specific relationship went through. Furthermore, this relationship did go through a stage of power struggle as Cutright and Cutright (2006) have suggested in necessary. In this situation, the power struggle was to do with each partner trying to gain control over when and where the other partner spent time with his/her friends. Although the power struggle was an unstable time during the relationship, it was in fact necessary for the development of trust as Cutright and Cutright (2006) have suggested. With reference to the parental investment model, I have found that as a twenty year-old my selections of a partner have become more stringent as I think about finding a life partner, and someone to parentally invest. It is my opinion that each of the models discussed are all accurate and can apply to an array of relationship situations.
In conclusion, the Stimulus-value-role Model, Social penetration theory, Stage theory, and the Relational development Model each have valuably contributed to a social psychological explanation of how relationships mature and develop. These theories could be improved with extra research, and particularly the inclusion of a power struggle stage as described by Cutright and Cutright (2006). The evolutionary Parental Investment Model is also valuable in explaining exactly how partners are chosen, and how they have been chosen throughout evolution. Although, this model could be improved with extra research which clearly examines real risk of parental investment rather than perceived risk as Woodward and Richards (2004) have recommended.
1,403 Words excluding references, citations, and headings.
See Appendix D for Reference List
Please see Appendix E for Self-evaluation