The Relationship Context of Human Behavior and Development
o The goal of relationship science is to understand relationship dynamics and the antecedents and
consequences of these. In order to do that, we need to map out the causal pathways by which a person’s
interpersonal relationships will inﬂuence his/hers behavior. Newﬁeld,notalotofresearchand/or
o But the little evidence available shows that the meaning of the stimuli to the individual may change a lot
with changes in the relationship context so to understand and predict behavior need to understand
the relationship context + his/hers developmental course.
Conceptualization of Relationships:
o The concept of relationship:
o The study of relationships was hindered for many years.
In part because the word relationship, used in everyday life, wasn’t deﬁned for the
purpose of the study.
Most agree that relationships are interactions between the relationship partners:
each partner’s behavior inﬂuences the other partner’s subsequent behavior within
a single interaction episode. And each interaction episode inﬂuences the next one.
Relationships are inherently temporal in nature.
o Types of relationships:
o Similarities underlying different types of relationships are sufficient to develop a
superordinate body of relationship knowledge or relatively independent bodies of
Mechanisms to organize different categories?
Laws governing the behavior with the same partner depends on the type of
M.S. Clark and Mills:
o Communal: people respond to the other’s need.
o Exchange relationships: in which beneﬁts are exchanged in repayment for prior beneﬁts or
in expectations of future beneﬁts.
Bugental and Goodnow socialization is the process of learning the distinctive sensitivities and
regulatory processes appropriate to different social domains.
o Five social domains:
1. Attachment domain: proximity-maintenance within a protective relationship.
2. Hierarchical power domain: use and recognition of social dominance.
3. Coalition group domain: identiﬁcation of “us” and “them”.
4. Reciprocity domain
5. Mating domain
o The individualistic perspective vs. the system perspective:
o Individualistic perspective: identifying associations between properties of the individual and
the individual’s relationship experiences and outcomes. but only looks at one person but
a relationship is started by two persons so its value is limited.
o System theory: classify systems according to the way the parts are organized or interrelated,
and […] to describe typical patterns of behavior for the different classes of system as
Relationship are open systems, they exchange info, energy and material.
The system perspective acknowledges that:
1. From the moment of conception, individuals are nested in social relationships
that inﬂuence the nature and operation of the many hierarchically organized
biological and behavioral systems each individual encompasses.
2. Each relationship is itself nested in a social environmental system and in a physical
environmental system, which together represent each relationship's ecological
3. The speciﬁc ecological niche of each relationship is, in turn, embedded in larger
societal and cultural systems
4. All of these systems are simultaneously evolving and inﬂuencing each other over
To understand if relationship is maintained/dissolved and what impact it has on the
individual’s current and future behavior necessary to understand its principles of
organization: o Feedback loops: can be self-reinforcing (e.g. rejection sensitive women
perceive their partners to be rejecting and thus treat them in hostile
fashion, which elicits actual rejection from the partner, which, in turn
reinforces the women’s perceptions that her partner is rejecting. Downey,
Freitas, Micahealis, and Khouri – 1998)
o Principle of equiﬁnality: the system can reach the same end by different
routes. E.g. Gottman and Levenson (1992): positive behaviors appear to
be at least 5 times more frequent than negative behaviors in satisﬁed
couples this can be reach in different ways.
o Cultural variation in relationships:
Recent studies are predicated on the assumption that similar ﬁndings found across cultures may highlight
universal processes derived from evolutionary adaptations (e.g. Buss (1989): similar sex differences in mate
preferences in 37 cultures)
o Two models of the self: (1) autonomous individualistic self (satisfaction of personal needs and
individual goals. They tend to rely on dispositional explanations for behavior, and (2) self that is
embedded in a web of relationships and roles (prevails in Asian cultures) >> interdependence >>
behavior is oriented toward the harmonious functioning of these social entities. They tend to
emphasize the social context in which behavior occurs.
The role of relationships in human survival and well-being:
o Social relationships and human evolution:
o The small cooperative group has been the primary survival strategy of the human species.
o Social group constitutes the selection environment for human evolution at the individual
level. we have built-in characteristics for socialization.
o Adaptive value of social relationships and biological systems that facilitates the formation
and maintenance of social bonds. E.g. Baumeister and Leary (1995): over time humans have
developed a “need to belong”, a drive to maintain at least a minimum number of positive,
lasting, signiﬁcant relationships.
o Identiﬁcation with in-groups and rejection of out-groups.
o Innate social response systems:
o All behavior is a product of interactions between genetically determined biological
properties and the environment.
o Face perception: newborns posses an innate predisposition to attend to the faces its
conspeciﬁc (e.g. its parents). Langlois (1987) babies prefer innately pretty faces than ugly
o Attachment: theory proposed by Bowlby attachment between infant and caregiver. Infant
recognizes the face, smell, voice, of its caregiver and it facilitates interaction. Adult
attachment styles have been correlated with adult relationship characteristics such as self-
disclosure, nurturance toward a partner under stress, social participation, and affect
• How come experiences in one couple (or dyad) are replicated in other
relationships internal working model: residual of early relationship
experiences affect later functioning in relationships with the same and
• What are the links between attachment and other innate social responses
system such as care giving or reproduction?
o Brain development and relationships:
o Early attachments relations have a direct effect on the development of the domains of
mental functioning that serve as our conceptual anchor points: memory, narrative, emotion,
representations, and states of mind
o Social relationships and physical and mental well-being:
o Physical health:
House, Landis, and Umberson (1998): low social integration is a major risk factor
for mortality, with an aged-adjusted relative risk ratio exceeding that of cigarette
Relationship quality, e.g. social support is associated with diverse indicators of
health and well-being. Illness,