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Title: Putting love to the test : understanding willingness to sacrifice in relationship dilemmas
Author: Powell, Chantal
ISNI:       0000 0001 3497 6085
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2002
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In what circumstances do individuals sacrifice direct self-interest for the good of their partner or their relationship? The research presented in this thesis used interdependence theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959) as a theoretical framework for examining willingness to sacrifice in intimate relationship dilemmas. Two person specific variables, commitment and personal relationship needs, were examined alongside three situation specific variables, the cost of sacrificing, partners' relationship needs, and partners' strategy. The research had a varied methodological base consisting of two laboratory-based studies (outcome matrices represented relationship dilemmas), a scenario based paradigm, and a recall paradigm. The situation specific variables revealed tendencies for individuals to strive to maximise personal outcomes rather than joint outcomes. Individuals were consistently found to sacrifice less in dilemmas involving a high level costs and rewards, exhibited less sacrifice with a selfish partner as opposed to a sacrificial partner, and less sacrifice when paired with a partner who was described as being high in relationship needs. However, the person specific variables demonstrated factors within intimate relationships that may restrict this pursuit of self-interest. In line with previous research (e. g. Van Lange, Agnew, Harinck, & Steemers, 1997) a positive relationship was found between commitment and willingness to sacrifice. However the current research demonstrated that this relationship is only found in dilemmas that involve a high level of costs and rewards (e. g. moving home). When the costs and rewards involved are low (e. g. washing up), individuals classified as low in commitment exhibit similar levels, or sometimes even greater sacrifice, than individuals classified as high in commitment. It was demonstrated that individuals who are highly committed to their relationship hold more dyad-focused motives (e. g. concern for partner's well-being and needs) than less committed individuals. It is proposed that this increased focus on the dyad promotes a greater desire to maximise joint outcomes, resulting in the greater sacrificial behaviour exhibited in the high cost dilemmas. It was demonstrated that less committed individuals are more influenced by self-focused motivations for sacrificial behaviour, such as short-term exchange (i. e. getting something in return for their sacrifice) than high committed individuals. It is argued that these self-focused motives generally only justify sacrifice in dilemmas involving a low level of cost. The main conclusion drawn from this research is that both self-focused and dyad-focused motives underlie sacrifice. However, low committed individuals are more influenced by self-focused motives than high committed individuals, and high committed individuals are more influenced by dyad-focused motives than low committed individuals. This discrepancy results in situational differences (in terms of cost) in which low and high committed individuals are willing to sacrifice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: relationships ; conflict