Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships

Article excerpt

Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships. Ralph Erber & Robin Gilmour (Eds.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 1994. 271 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-8058-0573-7. $59.95 cloth.

This volume is like attending the highlights of a personal relationships conference-the top speakers plus a sprinkling of less well-known folks with exciting new ideas.

For those not yet acquainted with the world of personal relationships research, these 11 chapters lead into what may be the cutting edge of contemporary social science. The authors of the chapters include many of the most prominent theorists on personal relationships, and the diversity of topics is appropriately representative of the field's wide range. The chapters also are diverse in their focus not only on theory (in spite of the book's title), but also on methods and empirical discoveries of interest for their own sake. The book should be taken, however, as a sampler, and not as a systematic coverage of the field. In particular, the selection of theories omits some of the most influential approaches (such as interdependence and evolutionary psychology). But after reading this book, the uninitiated will have a good sense of what the world of personal relationships research is about and-I hope-will gain some appreciation of its relevance and promise for scholars in the field of marriage and family.

For those who are already part of the personal relationships field, the book offers valuable contributions not available elsewhere. George Levinger makes a well-illustrated case for the importance of the macrosocial level in understanding relationships. Judd Mills and Margaret Clark provide a fine integrative chapter on their communal/exchange relationship approach, including responding persuasively to criticisms. Ted Huston presents findings from his ongoing longitudinal study of how courtship factors (such as how rapidly a couple falls in love) bear on later satisfaction. …


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