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The Scope Of Equity Theory And Close Relationships, Overview Of Equity Theory, Conclusion

It is not surprising that in cultures founded on principles of individualism, equality, and capitalism, such as in the United States, theories concerned with fairness and exchange would develop regarding close relationships. A large body of relationship research has originated from a group of theories associated with social-exchange principles, which conceptualize relationships as based on principles of economics and behavioral psychology. One of the main principles of this research is the idea that a relationship is developed or ended based on partners' calculations regarding the costs and benefits of the relationship (Thibaut and Kelly 1959). For example, a person may rely on a friend for entertainment, occasional help such as getting a ride to the airport, and emotional support when a romantic relationship goes bad. These are types of benefits or rewards a person gets from the friendship. For the person giving the assistance and support, these behaviors can be perceived as personal costs associated with being in the friendship. Different social-exchange types of theories offer different insights into the possible ways relational partners compare their costs and benefits to determine whether or not the relationships is worth pursuing.

Equity theory proposes that relationship outcomes, such as satisfaction and continued involvement, are based upon evaluations of how just or fair the distribution of costs and benefits are for each partner (Walster, Walster, and Berscheid 1978). The four main propositions of equity theory indicate that partners judge the distribution of costs and benefits according to socially acceptable rules of fairness. When their calculations indicate they are in an inequitable arrangement, partners will become distressed and try to adjust the costs and benefits of the relationship to make the relationship equitable.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of Families