Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Pathways of Commitment to Wed: The Development and Dissolution of Romantic Relationships

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Pathways of Commitment to Wed: The Development and Dissolution of Romantic Relationships

Article excerpt

The question ofwhy some relationships progress toward marriage whereas others falter is at the core of relationship science. The answer to this question lies in the study of commitment processes, and past work has shown that developmental pathways toward marriage vary considerably across couples (e.g., Surra, 1985). Assessing this variability in early relationship development is important because premarital characteristics of the relationship predict outcomes in later marriages (e.g., Clements, Stanley, & Markman, 2004).

Currently, however, much of the research on dating couples assumes that the manner in which relationships are formed is similar across individuals; that is, the focus is on the average individual or couple, which produces a single explanation for behavior by aggregating multiple responses into one way of being. For example, evolutionary perspectives assume that ideal mate preferences guide the selection of romantic partners. Although specific mate preferences differ across sexes as a function of differentreproductivestrategies,themechanismfor selecting partners is universal (although there may be some cross-cultural variation; see Buss et al., 1990). Likewise, early compatibility theories (e.g., Murstein, 1970) posit that partners possess preferences for potential partners. Careful consideration of the compatibility between traits possessed by the self and the potential partner, however, underlies the formation of romantic relationships. The specific preferences and desired compatibility may differ across individuals, but the underlying process is assumed to be the same for all individuals.

Although much is gained by focusing on averages or universal theories, the assumption that responses from different individuals represent a single developmental process is not always tenable because multiple pathways to the same outcome may exist. Thus, in this study we classified people into meaningful groups according to perceptions of how and why commitment to wed developed in their relationships and examined whether constructs from different theories predict unique patterns of development and relationship outcomes. The purposes of this study were threefold: (a) to develop a typology of dating individuals, (b) to test how different theories explain the diverse relationship types, and (c) to examine whether the new typology predicts relevant dating outcomes (e.g., breakup).

The Development of Commitment to Wed

According to the investment model, commitment represents one's attachment to and intention to continue a relationship and results from higher levels of satisfaction, more investments, and lower quality alternatives (Rusbult, 1980). The investment model posits that commitment has three distinct components. The first component, psychological attachment, is the affective bond that enables partners to grow connected. Second is long-term orientation, a cognitive component encompassed by the belief that the relationship will continue into the future. Third and last is intention to persist, the motivational component that moves relationships forward. Although these components have been hypothesized to comprise commitment, they operate differently across different types of relationships. In dating couples, long-term orientation alone predicts relationship quality (Arriaga & Agnew, 2001), and stability in long-term expectations of relationship quality (compared to fluctuation) was the strongest predictor of relationship stability (Arriaga, 2001). These motives differ from those of married couples in that the motivational intention to persist predicts lower levels of divorce above other components of commitment (Schoebi, Karney, & Bradbury, 2012). Thus, dating and married couples have divergent commitment experiences, and future expectations are more fundamental for daters. In addition, Surra, Hughes, and Jacquet (1999) argued that commitment is studied most effectively by focusing on predictions about future involvement. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.