Interdependence theory

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Interdependence theory is part of a larger scale of social exchange theories. Social exchange theories look at how people exchange rewards and costs in a relationship. Interdependence theory takes it another step further and demonstrates how these rewards and costs collaborate with peoples’ expectations of interpersonal relationship. This theory comes from the idea that closeness is the key to all relationships; that people communicate to become closer to one another. This theory states that there are rewards and costs to any relationship and that people try to maximize the rewards while minimizing the costs.

Authors[edit]

Interdependence theory was first introduced by Harold Kelley and John Thibaut in 1959 in their book, The Social Psychology of Groups.[1] In their second book, Interpersonal Relations: A Theory of Interdependence,[2] the theory was completely formulized in 1978.

Rewards and costs[edit]

Interdependence theory stipulates that an ideal relationship is characterized with high levels of rewards and low levels of costs. Rewards are “exchanged resources that are pleasurable and gratifying,” while costs are “exchanged resources that result in a loss or punishment.”[3] There are different types of rewards and costs discussed in this theory. This theory distinguishes between four types of rewards and costs. These types are as follows: emotional, social, instrumental, and opportunity.

Emotional[edit]

Emotional rewards and costs are the positive and negative feelings, respectively, that are experienced in a relationship. These types of rewards and costs are especially pertinent to close relationships.[4]

Social[edit]

Social rewards and costs are those related with a person’s social appearance and the ability to interact in social environments. Social rewards deal with the positive aspect of a person’s social appearance and the enjoyable social situations in which one must engage. On the other hand, social costs are those that relate to the negative aspect of a person’s social appearance and the uninteresting social situations to which a person must attend.[5]

Instrumental[edit]

Instrumental rewards and costs deal with activities and/or tasks in a relationship. Instrumental rewards are those that are obtained when a person’s partner is proficient in handling tasks, such as getting all the laundry finished. Instrumental costs are just the opposite; they occur when a person’s relationship partner causes unnecessary work or the partner impedes the other’s progress in a task, such as one person in a relationship not doing any of the housework.[6]

Opportunity[edit]

Opportunity rewards and costs are associated with the opportunities that arise in relationships. Opportunity rewards are those gains that a person is able to receive in their relationship, which they would not be able to receive on their own. Opportunity costs occur when a person must give up something that they normally would not for the sake of the relationship.

Outcomes[edit]

With every relationship there is an outcome. These outcomes are determined by comparing the amount of rewards present in a relationship versus the amount of costs present. “According to interdependence theory, people mentally account for rewards and costs so they can evaluate the outcome of their relationship as either positive or negative."[7] The outcome is determined to be positive when the rewards outweigh the costs in a relationship. Conversely, the outcome is negative when the costs outweigh the rewards.

Comparison level[edit]

Interdependence theory also takes into account comparison level. This involves the expectation of the kinds of outcomes a person expects to receive in a relationship.[8] These expectations are ‘compared’ to a person’s past relationships and current observations of others’ relationships. “Satisfaction depends on expectation, which is shaped by prior experience, especially gripping events of the recent past."[9] A person will have a high comparison level, if all the relationships that they have been exposed to are happy. Therefore, to determine whether or not someone is in a satisfying relationship, it is necessary to consider both the rewards and costs evident in that relationship as well as that person’s own comparison level.

Quality of alternatives[edit]

Comparison level correlated with the rewards and costs of a relationship determine satisfaction and commitment for a particular person in a relationship. However, there are some situations where people may be committed, but not have a satisfying relationship or they may be satisfied in their relationship, but not committed to it. Thus, the quality of alternatives helps people understand the ‘alternatives’ they have outside of their current relationship.[10] Alternatives can be any other option rather than the one currently held. When people have good alternatives, they tend to be less committed to their relationships. By contrast, when people have poor alternatives, they tend to be highly committed to their relationships.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thibaut, J.W., & Kelley, H.H., (1959). The social psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.
  2. ^ Kelley, H.H. & Thibaut, J.W., (1978). Interpersonal relations: A theory of interdependence. New York: Wiley-Interscience."
  3. ^ Sprecher, S., (1998). Social exchange theories and sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 35(1), 32–43.
  4. ^ Guerrero, L.K., Anderson, P.A., & Afifi, W.A. (2007). Close encounters: Communication in relationships.
  5. ^ Guerrero, L.K., Anderson, P.A., & Afifi, W.A. (2007). Close encounters: Communication in relationships.
  6. ^ Guerrero, L.K., Anderson, P.A., & Afifi, W.A. (2007). Close encounters: Communication in relationships.
  7. ^ Guerrero, L.K., Anderson, P.A., & Afifi, W.A. (2007). Close encounters: Communication in relationships.
  8. ^ Thibaut, J.W., & Kelley, H.H., (1959). The social psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.
  9. ^ http://www.afirstlook.com/docs/socialexchange.pdf
  10. ^ Guerrero, L.K., Anderson, P.A., & Afifi, W.A. (2007). Close encounters: Communication in relationships.
  11. ^ Crawford, D. W., Feng, D., Fischer, J.L., & Diana L.K., (2003). The influence of love, equity, and alternatives on commitment in romantic relationships. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 13, 253–271.