Social as a consequence of an unfolding social-exchange process,

Social
exchange theory is the most cited theoretical perspective in research on marriage
and close relationships. It asserts that relationships grow, develop,
deteriorate, and dissolve as a consequence of an unfolding social-exchange
process, which may be conceived as a bartering of rewards and costs both
between the partners and between members of the partnership and others (R. L. Burgess
& Huston, 2013; Huston &
Burgess, 1979). Levinger was
among the first to apply the concepts of social exchange to marriage (Levinger,
1976). He claimed
that marital success or failure depends on an individual’s weighing of the benefits
of the relationship, or all the aspects of the relationship that may be
rewarding, for example, emotional security, sexual fulfillment, and social
status and or the barriers to leaving the relationship, for instance, social
and religious constraints, financial expenses, concern on children, and the
presence of attractive alternatives outside the relationship such as preferable
partners and escape from the current relationship (Levinger,
1976). According to
this view, marriages end when the attractions of the relationship are few, the
barriers to leaving the relationship are weak, and the alternatives to the
relationship are attractive. Using these ideas, Lewis and Spanier (1979) formed
an exchange typology of marital relationships in which marital satisfaction and
marital stability are conceived as dimensions of marital outcome. The marriages
can categorize as satisfied and stable, satisfied but unstable, unsatisfied but
stable, or unsatisfied and unstable. For example, unsatisfied stable couples
are those for whom the attractions within the relationship may be low, but the
barriers to leaving the relationship are prohibitively high. Satisfied-unstable
relationships are those for whom attractions within the relationship may be
adequate, but barriers to leaving the relationship are low and alternatives
outside the relationship are even more attractive(Karney &
Bradbury, 1995).

The
major strength of this theory is that many types of variables can be
incorporated into its framework. For example, within the concept of attractions
the micro variables like perceptions of companionship and socio-demographic
variables such as occupational status. Barriers were also conceived broadly and
included macro-level variables such as community norms against divorce as well
as more specific within-spouse feelings of obligation. The social exchange
framework suggests how those variables may contribute to influence marital
outcomes. Strength of this theory is also include that it clearly
distinguishing marital satisfaction from marital stability and the theory
potentially explain variety of marital outcomes(Karney &
Bradbury, 1995). Nevertheless,
this framework has certain limitations. Although, it acknowledges that
“the quality and stability of a relationship may vary over the life
cycle” (Lewis &
Spanier, 1979), the theory
does not address how change in marriage comes about. Social exchange describes
marriages that should be stable or unstable, but it does not speculate about
how an initially stable marriage might become unstable over time(Lewis &
Spanier, 1979).

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Behavioral Theory

The
Behavioral perspective of marriage is slightly different from the social
exchange perspectives which focus primarily on perception of interpersonal
exchanges in the marital relationship and 
 marital satisfaction is assumed
to be the result of each individual’s weighing of attractions and alternatives,
and those attractions and alternatives are conceived to be “aspects of
perception, not action”(Karney &
Bradbury, 1995). Even though,
rewards and costs are also the essential elements of behavioral framework of
marriage, but the focus is on the interpersonal exchange of specific behaviors(Karney &
Bradbury, 1995). It emphasize
on the behaviors that exchanged during problem-solving discussions and has been
guided by the premise that rewarding or positive behaviors enhance overall
evaluations of the marriage while punishing or negative behaviors do harm(Wills, Weiss,
& Patterson, 1974) This basic
framework was further expanded to include the attributions that spouses make
for partner behaviors (Fincham &
Bradbury, 1987). Unlike social
exchange theory, which focuses on these perceptions as direct determinants of
marital outcome, the behavioral model suggests that cognitive responses affect
marriage through their influence on subsequent interaction behaviors. Over
time, the accumulation of experiences during and after interaction are thought
to gradually influence spouses’ judgments of marital quality(Gottman &
Krokoff, 1989).

The
strength of this model is that it explains how judgments of marital
satisfaction change over time. The spouses learn on the basis of their
interactions and the appraisals that follow from them whether or not they are
in a rewarding relationship(Bradbury
& Fincham, 1991). Each
satisfying interaction validates continued satisfaction, which in turn makes
further satisfying interaction more likely. The marital distress is viewed
largely a consequence of a couple’s difficulties in dealing with a conflict. As
the researchers rightly observed, “to the extent that normal marital
disagreements are not handled well, unresolved negative feelings start to build
up, fueling destructive patterns of marital interaction and eventually eroding
and attacking the positive aspects of the relationship”(Markman, 1991). A comprehensive
discussion on this is offered by coercion theory (Patterson & Reid, 1970),
which explains how spouses reward and shape each other’s negative behaviors unintentionally(Patterson
& Reid, 1970). If repeated niggling
from one spouse results in a desired behavior from the other spouse through a
behaivoural re-enforcement model. Gottman and Levensons makes the similar
prediction that behaviors leading to decline in both spouses’ level of
emotional arousal will be inversely reinforced (Gottman &
Levenson, 1992). To the extent
that aversive behaviors, such as expressing anger or disrespect, are followed
by decay in arousal, these behaviors will increase in frequency and destructive
patterns of behavior may become engrained(Gottman &
Levenson, 1992). These
mechanisms describe marriage as a dynamic spectacle, characterized by an
ongoing feedback from the interaction between spouses to the sentiments of each
spouse about the marriage and back again. In this regard, behavioral theory has
a viewpoint on change in marriage that is lacking in social exchange theory.
However, the strong focus on interaction also can be viewed as the limitations
of this model. Because marital interaction, to be examined within the broader
context of spouses’ lives(Smith,
Vivian, & O’leary, 1990). In the behavioral
model, micro analyses of interaction have been emphasized at the expense of
considering the context in which interaction occurs.

 The sources of marital interaction forms and
the factors that affect variation in these patterns did not address adequately
by behavioral models of marriage. Consequently, there have been little attempt
to connect the macro variables such as personality, education, or life events
to behavior exchange, in spite of the fact that these variables could influence
marital interaction. Furthermore, behavioral theory explains only a limited
range of marital outcomes. For instance, the models explain within-couple
variation in marital satisfaction but only in single direction. Coercion theory
and the escape conditioning model suggest how negative behaviors might develop
into entrenched destructive patterns, but they do not explain how initially
adaptive communication patterns might deteriorate over time or how couples
lacking adequate skills might improve spontaneously. Also unaddressed is the
question of when distress leads to divorce. The presence of harmful interaction
patterns characterizes some couples that divorce after a few years of marriage
and others that remain married despite years of conflict. Behavioral theory
alone does not account for variation in marital duration.

Attachment theory

The
attachment theories of marriage draw from the work of Bowlby, and he observed
that the nature of the first intimate relationship determines a child’s
internal working model of what close relationships are like, so it should
determine the nature of an individual’s close relationships throughout the life
course(Bowlby, 1969). According to
this theory, there are three major types of attachment. They are secure attachment, anxious/ambivalent attachment, and anxious/avoidant attachment.  The secure attachment is most commonly observed
between mothers and infants and it is thought to be the ideal and describes
parents who are available for their children and children for whom the
attachment to the caregiver provides a base for exploration of novel stimuli.
Anxious /ambivalent attachment describes parents who are inconsistently
responsive to their infants, resulting in infants who simultaneously crave and
resent the caregiver. Anxious/ avoidant attachment describes parents who are
not responsive to their infants and infants who avoid contact with the
caregiver and are not distressed by separations(Bowlby, 1969).

The
researchers who applied these concept to adult relationships arguing that close
relationships between adults reflect enduring styles of attachment developed in
early childhood(Hazan,
Shaver, & Bradshaw, 1988). They emphasize
that individual’s early experiences in intimate relationships shape the nature
and development of subsequent relationships in adulthood. The relationship
satisfaction depends largely on the satisfaction of basic needs for comfort,
care, and sexual gratification and the success of a given relationship will
rest on whether each spouse trusts that the partner can fulfill those needs(Hazan et al.,
1988). According to this
theory, marital success or failure will be affected by enduring aspects of each
partner’s relationship history and family of origin.

 The strength of this perspective is that it
suggests connection between levels of analysis that are understated in or
absent from exchange and behavioral theories. Nerveless, the attachment theory
often oversees sources of change and variability in marriage. For instance, the
attachment theory pulls attention to the importance of personal history in shaping
the relationship needs of each partner; however, it does not explain how the
personal history affect the development of a marriage once two people with diverse
relationship needs come together. Similarly, the theory stresses that marriages
remain satisfying to the extent that partners are able to meet each other’s new
needs as they arise, but it does not consider the possibility that spouses’
abilities to meet