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Interdependence and Relational Maintenance
Given interdependence theory’s focus on patterns of interaction such that one person’s outcomes are dependent upon the partner’s provision of rewards, it makes sense to use the theory to investigate relationship maintenance processes. Indeed, previous research has established that individuals view their partner’s use of pro-social maintenance behaviors to be rewarding, and that the partner’s use of maintenance predicts a substantial amount of an individual’s own relational satisfaction. Yet, research does not consistently support the tenets of Thibaut & Kelley’s interdependence theory. In this presentation I will discuss the research that links interdependence and relational maintenance processes, with a particular focus on the central concepts of the theory that have been supported and those that have not been supported by the existing research. I will conclude with implications for future theorizing about relational maintenance.
Marianne Dainton is a Professor of Communication at LaSalle University
Karen L. Fingerman
The Pivot Generation: Midlife Adults' Relationships with Generations Above and Below
Increased longevity has resulted in families with multiple generations traversing adulthood simultaneously. The term “sandwich generation” (e.g., adults raising young children and caring for aging parents) has been debunked and replaced by the term “pivot generation” Midlife adults typically engage in frequent contact and support exchanges with grown children and with aging parents, but alter or pivot attention to different family members. The principal source of data for this talks is the Family Exchanges Study, a longitudinal study of 633 three generation families including middle-aged adults, their aging parents, and their grown children, with data collection in 2008 and 2013. Participants completed surveys, daily diaries, and provided salivary samples. I also present data from other studies that have examined adults’ ties to parents across adulthood. Midlife adults typically feel more affection for and engage in more active conflict strategies with grown children than with parents. Midlife adults typically provide more support to grown children than to aging parents, but these patterns differ across the life course. Factors that elicit support include crises, statuses (e.g., student), affection, perceptions of success, personal rewards of helping, and sometimes simply being in contact (e.g, advice by phone). When grown children or parents incur problems or crises, pivoting between generations may become complicated and stressful, and midlife adults may suffer distress and physiological consequences. Discussion focuses on possible cohort differences in patterns and what future generational interdependencies may look like.
Karen L. Fingerman is a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at The University of Texas at Austin
John G. Holmes
The Structure of Interdependence Shapes Cognition in Relationships
Mutual responsiveness is necessary to sustain a close relationship, and to achieve it, people must protect their overall motivation to act in a caring way against the costs naturally arising from the challenges of maintaining interdependence. These challenges are universal and require solutions that constitute relatively automatic habit structures. The solutions allow people to “keep their eyes on the prize” and sustain their rewards without being distracted by the costs that occur along the way. The most obvious challenge involves partners’ behavior that will on occasion interfere with one’s personal goals, by either pursuing their own interests first or failing to coordinate dyadic goals. The automatic response to such experiences in committed, trusting relationships is to rationalize the negative behavior by focusing on the partners’ positive features, to interpret motives as benign, or to misremember the non-responsive behavior. However, if people have the cognitive resources for deliberation, those whose broader goals are more self-protective rather than connective will overturn the pro-relationship impulses, to their ultimate detriment.
John G. Holmes is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychology at The University of Waterloo
Edward P. Lemay, Jr.
Relationship-Protective Properties of Selfishness and Insecurity: Insights from Interdependence and Communal-Exchange Theories
Selfishness and insecurity are typically viewed as harmful for interpersonal relationships, and several findings support this perspective. In the current talk, I will summarize two programs of research inspired by interdependence and communal-exchange theories suggesting that these phenomena may engender pro-relationship interpersonal processes. First, I will describe research suggesting that the goal to be positively regarded, which has been characterized as an interpersonally noxious egoistic or self-image goal in prior research, promotes pro-relationship behavior and cognitions when this goal is properly isolated from confounded constructs. Second, I will describe research suggesting that insecurity about partners’ love and commitment, which has been described as detrimental to relationship quality and persistence in prior research, often activates relationship-protective goals and, in turn, pro-relationship behavior in insecure individuals and their partners. Collectively, these lines of research suggest that, due to the interdependence and communal care characterizing most close relationships, selfishness and insecurity may often incite interpersonal processes that compensate for some of their interpersonal costs and promote relationship resilience.
Edward P. Lemay is an Associate Professor of Psychology at The University of Maryland
Jeffry A. Simpson
Partner Buffering of Attachment Insecurity
Insecurely attached people have less happy and more stable romantic relationships, but the quality of their relationships should depend on how their partners regulate them. Some partners find ways to buffer (emotionally and behaviorally regulate) insecurely attached individuals, which makes them feel better, behave more constructively, and improves their relationships. Understanding when and how this important interpersonal process works requires a dyad-centered approach. In this talk, I overview key tenets of attachment theory and the two forms of attachment insecurity (anxiety and avoidance). I then discuss the Dyadic Regulation Model of Insecurity Buffering, which explains how and why certain types of buffering behaviors should soothe the worries and improve the relationship perceptions and behaviors of anxious and avoidant people. Following this, I discuss recent studies of couples trying to resolve major conflicts that illustrate some ways in which partners can successfully buffer the insecure reactions of anxious and avoidant individuals.
Jeffrey A. Simpson is a Professor of Psychology at The University of Minnesota