Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships

By Ralph Erber ; Robin Gilmour | Go to book overview

these individual-level effects to see what is really going on in relationships. A major theoretical impetus behind the Social Relations Model is that social life is relational, but the actor and partner effects must be removed to reveal it.

What has been done is to provide a statistical definition of a relationship. Although a relationship cannot be captured fully in a statistical analysis, statistics can help. The statistics give some insight into what is meant by a relationship, If a person behaves in exactly the same way with all of his or her interaction partners, it does not seem justifiable to speak of him or her as relating to his or her partners. The Social Relations Model captures the unique aspect of relationships.

One might even argue that, to demonstrate that people are relating to one another, one must show that there is relationship variance ( Ross & Lollis, 1989). This might be particularly appropriate for developmental psychology, where the question of at what age do children learn to relate uniquely to their partners is a critical one. Certainly the Social Relations Model can be one tool in determining at what age and with whom children develop relationships. Moreover, it should prove useful in determining when and how adults form relationships, and how close relationships differ from ordinary relationships.

Too much of my work, and that of others, has examined equal-status, positive relationships. Using the four dimensions found by Wish, Deutsch, and Kaplan ( 1976),which characterize dyadic relationships, researchers have concentrated too much on cooperative, equal-status, socioemotional, and intense relationships, and have seriously neglected unequal-status relationships.

Relationship researchers have only just begun to exploit the usefulness of the Social Relations Model to study relationships. Thus, it is premature to forecast the directions for future research. Hopefully, the model will embolden researchers to ask the questions that they are really interested in so that they can probe more deeply into the fascinating area of relationships.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This work was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health ROI-MH4029501 and by the National Science Foundation grants BNS-8807462 and BNS-908077. I would like to thank Kathryn Dindia, Bryan Hallmark, Loring Ingraham, and Deborah Kashy for commenting on an earlier version of this chapter.


REFERENCES

Albright, L., Kenny, D. A., & Malloy, T. E. ( 1988). "Consensus in personality,judgments at zero acquaintance". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 387-395.

Burleson, J. A. ( 1982). "Reciprocity of interpersonal attraction within acquainted versus unacquainted small groups". Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Texas, Austin.

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