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One of the most important things for a human being is involvement in healthy romantic relationships. For many people being in love is a prerequisite for happiness. It provides a sense of meaning, emotional rise, enthusiasm, etc. As love and marriage are natural instinctually governed processes people rarely analyze the reasons and factors that influence their choices in relationships. That is why, this important subject remained unstudied until recently. Peoples’ desire to gain happiness and satisfaction through emotional closeness and commitment forced scholars to turn their attention to this question. Today development of healthy relationships is studied by anthropologists, historians, psychologists, family therapists, biologists and sociologists.
Sociology focuses on institution of marriage and family. Biologists study intimate relationships as chemical and physiological phenomena. Anthropologists research them from the point of view of humanity. All of them have one common goal – to find out why some couples build strong and successful relationships that last for years, and others go through misunderstandings from the very beginning and separate in a short period of time.
The main tasks of the coursework are:
1. To study main theories and empirical researches of healthy relationships development.
2. To overview the stages of interpersonal relationship development.
3. To explain methodology of relationships research.
Main Theories and Empirical Researches of
Healthy Relationships Development
First relationships and family development theories were introduced within religious, ethical and philosophical systems, but in Confucianism this subject was described to the greater extent. The first empirical studies of relationships goes back to 551–478 BC when Chinese and philosophical system Confucianism originated. Its main ideas are social harmony and relationships. According to this ethical-sociopolitical teaching, each individual is simultaneously involved in several relationships with different people: as a junior with elders, and as a senior with younger siblings or children.
First contemporary theories with scientific approach were developed only in the 20th century. The most prominent of them are:
This theory confirms that people are driven by the motive to produce offspring while choosing a partner. Numerous experiments prove that the more parents don’t resemble each other the stronger is immune system of their children. This theory explains why opposites attract. There is a bounding mechanism that keeps couples together during their infants are dependent. This period lasts for approximately 5 years (Knox & Schacht, 2010).
Sociological Theory. According to this theory partners satisfy their social needs: rapport; self-revelation; that quickly turns into mutual dependency; to trust and to be trusted; to love and to be loved; to support and to be supported.
This theory was proposed by Sigmund Freud (1905/1938) within his psychodynamic approach. He considered love as result of blocked sexual desires in response to social restriction (Knox & Schacht, 2010). “This is clearly exemplified by Freud’s theory of id (pressure), superego (control) and ego (mediation)” ( L'Abate & Giacomo, 2003, p. 372).
A basis of love is hormone Oxytocin that makes enamored people feel themselves energized and euphoric. Mona Fishbane (2007) describes a study of people who were “crazy in love”. Their brain was functioning in the fMRI machine as they looked at photos of their beloved. “The part of the brain that was most activated is the same region affected by the use of addictive drugs such as cocaine: the caudate nucleus, part of the brain’s pleasure and reward system” (Fishbane, 2007).
This theory was elaborated by British psychologist, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Edward Bowlby (1907 – 1990). He considered love as a result of a person’s primary motivation – to be connected to others. The main idea of the theory is Bowlby’s conclusion that “the survival of human infants requires a bond with a caregiver (usually the parent) strong enough to motivate considerable self-sacrifice on the caregiver’s part” (Karney, Beckett, Collins & Shaw, 2007, p. 30).
This approach was proposed by psychologists John H. Harvey and Julia Omarzu. They discovered that closeness can enhance long-term and strong relationships. Strong psychological commitment appears when partners closely communicate, while engaged with the same activities, when the same thoughts are on their minds. “We consider emotions to be an important aspect of relationships, our theory of “minding” addresses how our thinking processes may impact those emotions” (Harvey & Omarzu, 1999).
Among others approaches the following should be pointed out: Assembling a Model of the Precursors of Adult Romantic Relationships and The Development of Early Adult Romantic Relationships (DEARR) Model.
Stages of Interpersonal Relationship Development
Relationships change continuously during their existence. Like all dynamic systems they begin, live and come to the end. Most researchers are unanimous in distinguishing of relationship development stages. The most important feature of relationships is a sudden shift from one stage to another.
Psychologist George Levinger (1983) formulated the most accurate relationships life-cycle model, according to which the sequence of events, in all relationships, follow five stages:
Norman Brown and Ellen Amatea in their book “Love and Intimate Relationships: Journeys of the Heart” suggest another model, according to factors that influence partners during relationship: “stimulus”, “values”, “roles” (2000, p.5).
Relationships Research Methodology
Development of relationships can be researched with a help of exploratory, constructive and empirical methods. Exploratory method is used when defects should be identified. Constructive method finds solutions to problems, and empirical method evaluates usefulness of the solutions. Empirical method is based on evidence. Each of these methods are are of two types qualitative or quantitative. For example, the following relationships research methodology was used by Cassandra Chaney (2006), in the course of her work on the dissertation:
Comparison of married and cohabitating couples. The research showed that married couples were older than cohabitating couples, their income was higher and they lived together for longer period.
The Rubin Love Scale assesses the level of romantic feeling. The scale ranges from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” and has from 7 or 9 points.
The Martial Intimacy Questionary of 56 items evaluates quality of relationships.
The Relationship Rating Form has 17 items scale and evaluates 7 characteristics and 20 aspects of relationships.
All of them are exploratory and quantitative. The results of these investigations are statistical data that. Qualitative method is descriptive, expressed most often by narratives, letters, diaries, videotapes, photographs. For example, participants of an experiment could be asked to describe their feelings experienced while watching a film or looking through pictures.
Dr. Kim Ryan and Dr. John Gottman held a research project at the University of Washington. The aim of the project was to learn how workshops help couples deepen their relationships. Forty couples were assigned few workshop conditions, another twenty were overloaded with work and attended individual therapy sessions. Researchers evaluated their marital satisfaction before and after the experiment, and once more in six month. Workshops collaboration created a positive long lasting effect on marital satisfaction of couples, and results equaled results of six months marital therapy. Researchers discovered that trouble and daily stress handling can improve marital satisfaction. Figure 1 describes effectiveness of work shop and marital therapy according to the results of experiment (Gottman, 2003).
Analyzing this experiment, it should be mentioned that researches didn’t directly intent to prove the minding theory of relationships, but the results showed that close collaboration leads to commitment and health relationships development.
Though a human being is a social creature, a person’s behavior is influenced by instincts to a great extent and development of intimate relationships across genders is not the exemption. Furthermore, as a rule social aspiration always yield to physiological striving for self-preservation and perpetuation of the mankind. Almost all theories of relationships support this point of view: Evolutionary Theory, Psychosexual Theory, and Biochemical Theory. At first it may seem that Attachment Theory and Theory of Minding Relationships are different, but if to have a deeper insight they describe the same initial intent, e. g. to find the best partner and, thereby to do a natural selection. The temptation of people to be loved and to be involved in relationships; create social units such as family, city community, and country; and to go through all stages of relationships development, such as acquaintance, buildup, continuation, deterioration and termination is also explained by this phenomenon. To struggle with other social units and win is possible only if a person has its own. Thant’s why the more civilized is the world, the more lonely people become.