Analyze why relationships
may change or end.
Brief Writing Assignment:
Why do most
relationships end?
Ending relationships
 Very seldom do relationships span the course
of a lifetime. This means that many of our
relationships will change (intimate to distant
friend, best friend to associate, etc.) or end.
 This objective will analyze theories that seek to
explain why relationships end.
Theories on why relationships
 Social Exchange Theory (1958)
 George Homans
 Attribution Bias
 George Homans
Social Exchange Theory
 Social exchange theory make use of the concepts of
rewards and costs (which were borrowed from
behavioral psychology) and resources (which were
borrowed from economics) when discussing the
foundation of the interpersonal exchange.
Social Exchange Theory
 In 1958, American sociologist George Caspar
Homans laid the basis of the social exchange
theory in his article, “Social Behavior as
Social Exchange Theory
 Social exchange theory proposes that social
behavior is the result of an exchange process. The
purpose of this exchange is to maximize
benefits and minimize costs.
 According to this theory, people weigh the
potential benefits and risks of social
relationships. When the risks outweigh the rewards,
people will terminate or abandon that relationship.
Social Exchange Theory
All relationships have give and take, although the balance of
this exchange is not always equal. Social Exchange theory
explains how we feel about a relationship with another person
as depending on our perceptions of:
 The balance between what we put into the relationship and
what we get out of it.
 The kind of relationship we deserve.
 The chances of having a better relationship with someone
Social Exchange Theory
 Rewards and costs are important concepts that form the
basis of most social exchange theories.
 Rewards are exchanged resources that bring pleasure and
satisfaction, while costs are exchanged resources that are
perceived as a loss or punishment
What are examples of the
rewards that we gain from
Social Exchange Theory
 Extrinsic rewards can include the exchange of gifts during
Christmas or birthdays, but nonmaterial rewards exist in the
forms of teaching or self-improving.
 A good example of nonmaterial rewards is in a teacher-
student relationship: the student receives knowledge on how
to pass exams, while the teacher gets to pass on his or her
knowledge of the subject to students.
 Once the student reaches his or her goal of passing the exam,
the relationship between student and teacher usually changes
or ends.
What are examples of the costs
that we incur from
Social Exchange Theory
 The costs of social exchange relationships can involve
punishments experienced, the energy invested in a
relationship, or rewards foregone as a result of engaging in
one behavior or course of action rather than another (Blau
Thinking critically:
Does satisfaction alone cause
relationships to change or end?
Why or why not?
Social Exchange Theory
 According to exchange theorists, satisfaction with a
relationship alone does not determine the likelihood that a
relationship will continue.
 Thibaut and Kelley (1959) developed the concept of
comparison level of alternatives (CLalt), defined as the
lowest level of outcome a person will accept from a
relationship in light of available alternatives, to explain
individuals' decisions to remain in or leave a relationship.
Social Exchange Theory
 The CLalt is an individual's assessment of the outcomes
available in an alternative to the present relationship.
When the outcomes available in an alternative relationship
exceed those available in a relationship, the likelihood
increases that person will leave the relationship.
Other factors that influence
relationship change
Biological Explanations:
 There is ample evidence that men in committed romantic relationships
have lower levels of testosterone than single men. As a man’s marriage
becomes less stable, his levels of testosterone rise. With changing of the
relationship or divorce, his testosterone levels rise even more. Increased
levels of testosterone can decrease levels of vasopressin and oxytocin –
the very chemicals responsible for male-female attachment
Cognitive Explanations:
 Cognitive explanations represent the beliefs, values, and relationship
orientations that an individual associates with various types of
relationships can influence the changing or ending of the relationship
(McDonald 1984).
Other factors that influence
relationship change
Cultural Explanations:
 There is significant research that suggest culture plays a vital role in
schemas for ending relationships. Collectivist studies have found long
lasting relationships to be the cultural norm compared to individualist