Compare explanations for relationship breakdown given by exchange theory and equity theory. Which do you consider to be the most convincing and why? What does Duck’s theory add to the explanation? The Exchange Theory which was put forward by Homans in 1971 suggests that when we are in a relationship, we keep an eye on what we are putting in and getting out of a relationship. It argues that whether ir not we are satisfied depends on the ratio of rewards and costs that are given within the relationship.
If the person involved feels as though, for them, the rewards outweigh the costs, they will most likely feel satisfied with the relationship as they do not need to give as much, however, if the person involved feels like the costs outweighs the rewards, they will become dissatisfied with the relationship and this will result in them becoming likely to look elsewhere for ‘better offer’ and the previous relationship will breakdown.
On the other hand, Equity Theory which was developed by Walster in 1978, does not argue that if the rewards outweigh the costs the person will be happy, but that when in a relationship, the people involved expect the relationship to be fair. Where Exchange Theory would say that people would leave a relationship as it is if they felt they were in the advantaged position where rewards are concerned, Equity theory says that the person would look to restore the equity within the relationship by either reducing their input or increasing their outputs.
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If this does not appear to work, it is likely that the relationship will breakdown as an equilibrium has not been reached. I think that the Equity Theory is a more convincing approach to the breakdown on relationships as most people in the 21st century, are more likely to try and ‘work it out’ if the relationship appeared to be in turmoil.
It is true that if someone feels like they aren’t getting enough out of the relationship, then the relationship is more likely to break down, but this the Exchange Theory suggests that the relationship will breakdown straight away which is not true to reality as it is likely that the couple would discuss things before a decision is made on the future of the relationship. This is outlined in Duck’s theory. Also, the Exchange Theory suggests that humans are selfish as the theory seems to say that humans are fixated on getting the rewards from a relationship.
In 1988, Duck demonstrated how a relationship should typically end. In order to do this, he developed a four stage model of dissolution. Stage one, the Intra-psychic phase, states that at least one member of the couple will start to feel unhappy and will start to focus on the behaviour of their partners. They will eventually reach the threshold and will voice their concerns. The second stage, the dyadic phase, states that the couple will take part in discussions and some may go to counselling; others may r ach the next threshold.
This is the third stage, the social phase, where friends may offer support or take sides. It is this stage, according to Duck, where a break up is inevitable. The final stage is the grave dressing phase. This is when both people involved put across their opinion of what happened during the breakup and each partner will create their own version of who was to blame in the situation. It is normally a face saving situation. This approach address issues that the other approaches, the Exchange Theory especially, ignores.
Duck’s approach addresses that couples are likely to take part in discussions about the relationship and where they think it is heading. The theory shows the different stages that should be considered when going through a break up however, ‘considered’ is the operative word. The theory suggests that these stages happen in all break ups however this is not the case for all situations. Although the stages should be considered, it is likely that some couples may get stuck in a stage or even miss one out meaning that it does not follow the approach to every letter.
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