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Social Exchange Theory

Core Assumptions Made Within The Exchange Framework

Embedded within the exchange framework are core assumptions about the nature of individuals and about the nature of relationships (Sabatelli and Shehan 1993). These are summarized as follows:

  1. Individuals seek rewards and avoid punishments.
  2. When interacting with others, individuals seek to maximize profits for themselves while minimizing costs. Because it is not possible to know the actual rewards and costs involved in interacting with another before interactions occur, individuals guide their behavior through their expectations for rewards and costs.
  3. Individuals are rational beings and, within the limitations of the information that they possess, they calculate rewards and costs and consider alternatives before acting.
  4. The standards that individuals use to evaluate rewards and costs differ from person to person and can vary over time.

The assumptions about the nature of exchange relationships are as follows:

  1. Social exchanges are characterized by inter-dependence, that is, the ability to obtain profits in a relationship is contingent on the ability to provide others with rewards.
  2. Social exchanges are regulated by norms like reciprocity, justice, and fairness.
  3. Trust and commitment result from the emergent experiences of individuals within relationships and help to stabilize relationships over the longer term.
  4. The dynamics of interaction with relationships and the stability of relationships over time result from the contrasting levels of attraction and dependence experienced by the participants in the relationship.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesSocial Exchange Theory - Core Assumptions Made Within The Exchange Framework, Major Contemporary Concepts