Comparing equity and self-expansion theory approaches to relational maintenance

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Abstract

Focusing on relational maintenance in heterosexual romantic dyads, this investigation compares the equity theory approach with self-expansion theory, an alternative approach predicting maintenance behavior when a partner includes the other in the sense of the self. Results supported both theoretical explanations, albeit support for self-expansion theory was more consistent, predicting all maintenance behavior types. Although relational maintenance constructs were statistically comparable between men and women, a sex difference emerged regarding maintenance behavior's predictors, with self-expansion theory a stronger explanation for men but not women. The discussion considers how these results inform the distinction between exchange- and communally oriented conceptualizations of relationships, as well as development of a communicative theory of relational maintenance.

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